Nepal Tourism Board has prepared the guideline

KATHMANDU: Nepal Tourism Board has prepared the guideline on the safety measures to be implemented for the tourism sector once the nationwide locked down is lifted and business becomes normal.

A draft on safety and hygiene guidelines for the tourism sector states that NTB is also promoting payments through the digital wallet in the tourism industry, which helps maintain social distancing. “NTB has recommended using digital wallet for all kinds of transactions and also suggested that other activities be conducted electronically so that most dealings are paperless.”
The board prepared the guideline on the safety measures to be implemented for the tourism sector once the lockdown is lifted and business becomes normal after conducting a survey. The protocols have been prepared for hotels, restaurants, vehicle operators and tour, trekking, mountaineering and rafting agencies.

The guideline has mentioned that the management team of the hotels and restaurants must draft an action plan tailored to the situation and implement it in accordance with the recommendations of local and national public health authorities with an aim to prevent COVID-19 cases. It has also asked the management to effectively manage cases and mitigate impact among clients and staff, including cleaning and disinfecting rooms occupied by sick persons, if any.

Likewise, all the hotels and restaurants have to arrange temperature screening of guests using thermal scanners and/or infrared thermometers. If possible, the hotels must install an automated sanitisation tunnel or disinfection spray prior to checking at the gate. Likewise, front desk staff must use face masks, gloves, protective apron (disposable) and full-length long-sleeved gown and also maintain social distancing measures. Hotels have also been urged to promote cleaning of hands and respiratory hygiene in every single corner of the hotel premises.

The guideline has also mentioned that tables at restaurants must be arranged in such a manner that the distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair must be more than one metre and guests must be facing each other from a distance of at least one metre. Meanwhile, tables for only four people should be set up at one sitting area.

The guideline has also asked businesses to reduce contact/touch points as much as possible, arrange virtual check-ins and check-outs as well as halt room service facilities, gym/health club facilities for a temporary period. Moreover, hotel rooms must be vacant for 48 hours after the last guest checks out.

Meanwhile, for trekking, mountaineering, tour and rafting sectors the guideline has made it a must to disinfect the workplace and use protective equipment. It has also sought mandatory health declaration form, maintaining hygiene and social distancing during the tour or trek and to follow safety measures of the Ministry of Health and Population and the World Health Organisation.

Likewise, for tourist vehicles, the guideline has stated that the seat next to the driver must be vacant and a two-metre distance must be maintained between passengers. In case of bigger vehicles like buses, seats that can be taken must be clearly marked and personalised pick up and drop service to the extent possible must be provided. If the point of departure happens to be a bus stop or a dedicated point, the operator must apply clear ground distancing marks.

The draft of the board has already been submitted to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation as well as other stakeholders for suggestions. “We have come up with this draft of guidelines on how to operate the tourism industry safely after the lockdown is lifted after conducting a massive survey because we have to make people believe that we are taking all the precautionary measures to stop the virus from spreading and their travel is safe,” said Dhananjay Regmi, chief executive officer of NTB. He further said that the government must change its policies to boost the tourism industry once the pandemic is contained.

It has also recommended avoiding socialising, story-telling, dancing or forming crowds or campfires or showing any tendency that is likely to breach social distancing norms during treks. Chances of infection will still be very high once the lockdown is over so it would be better to use precaution, states the guideline. The guideline further mentions that trekking equipment must be sanitised and each trekker must maintain minimum distance of one metre while camping or in the accommodation area.

Likewise, the beds for each trekker must be set up at a distance of two metres from each other and one camp must be set up at a distance of 30 metres from another camp. Trekking guides must report at the local government every day during a trek. In the Annapurna area, officials from Annapurna Conservation Area Project must maintain a log book. Emergency help desk must be set up on trekking trails that must operate round-the-clock.

Tourism stakeholders also stressed on moving towards sustainable and quality tourism with a benchmark for hygiene and sanitation in the post-crisis period to gain back consumer confidence.

NTB also said that the major focus of the board will be on branding Nepal during the recovery period. CEO Regmi expressed commitment to focus on branding Nepal as a healing, natural and wellness destination, and a massive digital promotion during the recovery period.