Promotion of Visit Nepal 2020 amid Australian bushfires draws diaspora’s ire

6 JANUARY 2020 I Nepal’s tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai is currently touring Australia to promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 and not all Australian Nepalese are happy about his itinerary.

Instead of welcoming him with open arms, the minister’s compatriots down under are saying this is not exactly the time to sell holiday packages to Aussies because, as can be seen from the space even, Australia is burning.

Vocal members of the diaspora have been expressing their discontent about Mr Bhattarai’s junket, arguing it would be rather insensitive and improper to be celebrating Nepal as a holiday destination while Australians remain overwhelmed by an apocalyptic devastation, tragic losses of human lives and distressing pictures of charred kangaroo joeys.

Nepalese Australians, almost without exception, are a cohort that is very much attached to their country of origin. They are a bunch that is ever eager to contribute in any way they can. Without the bushfires razing through parts of New South Wales and Victoria, they would surely jump in to promote VNY 2020 in Australia.

President of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Australia, however, cuts the Nepalese minister some slack. “The Sydney programme on 7 January to promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 was pre-determined and as such it must go on because the minister is already here. However, it will be done in a manner to suit these sombre times,” Keshav Kandel told “We have changed the nature of the progrmame given the devastating bushfires,” he pointed out.

Nepal’s tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai speaking at a Brisbane programme on Sunday I Photo: Facebook, Ashim Koirala

Tomorrow morning, Minister Bhattarai will “cut the ribbon” at Circular Quay to “launch” VNY 2020 which will be followed by an evening reception, hosted by the Embassy of Nepal, at the NSW Parliament where “fifty percent attendees will be Australians”.

“VNY has not gained prominence in Australia due to its timing as well as the current modality. As the country is in a bushfire emergency, it will not attract outbound Australian tourists as expected. Rather, if we should have invited Australian leaders or celebrities to Nepal at the beginning of VNY,” remarks Dr Bharat Raj Poudel, a Brisbane-based media expert.

Melbourne resident and community leader Deepa Rai on the other hand wonders if the Government of Nepal has in the first place conveyed “any note of sympathy about Aussie bushfire”.

She said that would be “the right thing to do in such times of crisis” instead of trying to pitch Visit Nepal Year 2020 to bushfire-affected Aussies.

“This is no time for launch or celebration; this is the time to show our communities’ generosity and gratitude towards our second home by doing whatever we can for Australian bushfire victims and firefighters,” she reminded.

Brisbane-based transport department engineer Ishwor Kuinkel says it is rather difficult for Nepalese migrants to decide whether “to be part of the sorrow and share the loss” or busy themselves promoting VNY 2020. He says he too did not approve of the VNY activities under the circumstances.

Mr Bhattarai was in Brisbane yesterday to participate in a programme titled samriddi sambad (prosperity dialogue). However, according to Dr Poudel, “participants and experts were not given any opportunity to ask questions about the VNY 2020, or about Nepal’s economic development”.

“Minister’s claim about the number of Australian tourists visiting Nepal does not hold water as out of the 38,000 that are said to have visited Nepal last year, a significant number are Nepal-born Australians. Now they are not real tourists, are they? They are simply people of Nepalese origin who were visiting Nepal to see their families. They do not fall within the definition of tourists,” he opined.

Dr Poudel deplored that the country From the last few years Australians have not prioritised their backpacking destination towards Nepal.

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