Self-reliance, perhaps not everywhere or always, makes sense. I am not suggesting that we eliminate import/export globally. But when critical societal crises arise, as now with COVID-19, it has not taken long to realise that countries and economies reliant on importing food, materials and components from overseas can quickly become incapacitated.
The answer is not to eliminate extraterritorial interaction, but try to support, improve and promote local production and marketing within reasonable limits, along with a reduction in excessive consumerism.
Tourism is a unique case. It survives on the ease of travel for visitors from outside who come to the country and spend their money. For this reason, while self-reliance is still relevant, there are other critical considerations that have to be taken into account to mitigate and decrease health and safety problems.
Notably, these include the travel routes and their maintenance, leadership and guidance with continuously refreshed skills and knowledge, as well as accommodation and food services that can practice and maintain industry-standard hygiene and sanitation. These components require improved training and monitoring.
If promoting large increases of tourist volume through campaigns like Visit Nepal 2020, hosting facilities, and transport services must be prepared to act immediately on critical directives – distancing of guests — in the event of some infectious outbreak like the one we are experiencing now.
It may be a good idea for the government to plan for strategically located facilities in case of predictable health issues like infections, and not just for rare outbreaks like coronavirus. Just as there are certain services that are in place only seasonally in particular regions, so extra health and safety assistance can be deployed to supplement unavailable or inadequate services. This could be a ‘pay for service’ self-sustaining operation.
Despite the sound recommendations after last year’s Everest traffic jam, there has yet to be a concerted effort to bring all essential agencies of government and private companies to collaboratively work out enhanced management of critical climbing areas and over-tourism generally. Non-action on this may also contribute to the less frequent, but disastrous, health emergencies like COVID-19.