Why would a tourist visit Bhadrapur? We don’t have much to offer in terai of Nepal, lowland region. An old friend who works for the Municipality office, asked me this. His question made me think as I was on a quick trip to visit friends and relatives (VFR) in the eastern town of Nepal bordering India.
The fact remains that international travelers are generally attracted by its mountains, trekking in the mid-hills, UNESCO heritage sites in Kathmandu valley and National Parks in southern terai are the highlights of their trip to Nepal.
This reminded me a trip to Tuscany in Italy in 2014 when I visited a few local farms that hosted visitors from Germany and other European countries. It was wonderful to learn that the agri-tourism program aimed to promote and protect rural culture, local food and wine traditions, and agricultural development – while allowing farm owners to diversify their income with tourism.
It gave me a counter question. Why doesn’t Jhapa district strive for positioning as an agri-tourism destination, catering to the city dwellers in Kathmandu who are looking for authentic rural experiences within Nepal. Bhadrapur, one of the oldest municipalities in Nepal, has a population of only 66,629 with 195,672 hectares of agricultural land growing cereal crops (paddy, wheat and maize) as well as vegetable and fruits in a traditional way.
In a conversation with the mayor of Bhadrapur, Mr. Jeevan Shrestha, I found him very optimistic and determined to empower local youth through innovation in agriculture and promoting tourism attraction. He is very hopeful that it is an achievable dream as Bhadrapur enjoys a pristine environment, greenery all around, better road network, regular flights between Kathmandu and Bhadrapur (one-way flight 50 minutes) and the Tea gardens of Ilam or Darjeeling at a 2 to 4 hrs driving distance.
When properly planned and executed, domestic as well as international travelers will surely enjoy a slice of rural life, a rendez-vous with local people including the tribal community, and to experience warm eastern Nepali hospitality at its best. Needless to say, this will increase the income of local people, empower local families and ensure transfer of knowledge/expansion of network as well.
Bhadrapur must learn from other destinations like Bandipur in Nepal or Alberta in Canada. In order to turn this into reality, the local leaders and planners should come up with a well-crafted plan and orientation/training on basics of hospitality with a focus on hygiene and safety.
A great number of travelers will start exploring as soon as the fear of Covid-19 is contained; they will start travelling to new destinations in their own country first. Hence many more rural tourism destinations may come up, making ‘Country Experience First’ the next normal of Tourism across the globe.