India, Nepal to form joint panel to promote tourism

Kathmandu, Jan 30 (IANS) Nepal and India have agreed to form a joint working committee to implement and execute tourism development according to an agreement signed between the two countries during the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu last November.

The first meeting of the joint panel is being planned to be held within three weeks in New Delhi, officials said.
The 12-member panel from each side will oversee and lay the ground for implementation of agreements to tap the huge potential of promoting tourism, including religious tourism.
The meeting is proposed to be held in New Delhi Feb 19-20, according to Nepal’s tourism ministry.
Speaking at a programme organised by the Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nepal’s Tourism Secretary Suresh Man Shrestha said the committee would work to eliminate gaps in policies and programmes to promote the tourism sector of both the countries.
During the SAARC meeting, Nepal and India signed three twin-city agreements to link Janakpur and Ayodhya, Kathmandu and Varanasi, and Lumbini and Bodh Gaya.
The two countries also agreed to develop and mutually promote the Buddhist pilgrimmage circuit. The pilgrimmage route connects Bodh Gaya in Bihar and Sarnath and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh in India and Lumbini in Nepal.
Nepal and India share a high potential in economic development through tourism promotion, said India’s Ambassador Ranjit Rae, adding that the joint working committee would help to provide shape and framework to the clauses agreed to during the SAARC summit.
It would be beneficial for both the countries if the Buddhist Circuit (Lumbini-Bodhgaya-Sarnath-Kushinagar) could be linked for tourists visiting Nepal and India, said Rae, adding that the joint working committee should facilitate travel agencies to make a joint package for this.
He said that Nepali travel agencies also needed to prepare attractive packages for Indian tourists under the leave travel concession (LTC) scheme.
The ambassador said that bilateral cooperation could help promote tourism through public-private partnership. Rae called for the development of a concrete development plan for tourism.
“It can be turned into reality by facilitating the construction of infrastructure like the international airport in Bhairahawa and fast track highway,” he said.
Following the bilateral accord, Nepal and India have announced the establishment of twin-city relations and a daily bus service between Kathmandu and New Delhi has been started. Similarly, Indian tourists have been allowed to bring Indian currency of Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 denominations to Nepal.
The joint working committee will work to simplify procedures and policies for third party payment collections as well as transfer between Nepal and India and create a Nepal-India tourism forum.
(Anil Giri can be contacted at [email protected])