The essence of tourism diplomacy

431243_10150602456662897_720398127_nBy Ashis Adhikary–

Diplomacy since long has been deemed as a vital component of statehood. Owing to the international relations theory of Realism and Liberalism, Realism advocates diplomacy as a zero-sum game, where a gain for state X is an equal loss to state Y ; while another theory of liberalism advocates diplomacy as a collective gain where exists a zone of benefits between state X and Y which can be reached via modes of diplomacy. The development of diplomacy has evolved from the security-approach to benefit-sharing approach. Earlier, diplomatic envoys were employed for preventing wars but these days diplomacy has been accommodated in developmental issues and more importantly developing countries use diplomacy as a tool for economic development, precisely termed as economic diplomacy.

Relation between economy and diplomacy

The rise of liberal economic system is based upon a concept of “comparative advantage”. Comparative advantage reflects an advantage in production of something that one state has over the other state. To exemplify, Japan has advantage of producing cars while Kuwait has advantage of producing oil. If we create a nexus between our advantageous item of production in economy and diplomacy then we can further breakdown the concept of economic diplomacy into fruitful variances and achievable objectives. The approach of developmental diplomacy has taken some amorphous form due to improper identification and policies of comparative advantage in our economy. Here in Nepal, we talk about the failure in competition of sugar factory but rarely pay heed to the international market of sugarcane. We talk about the production of automobile but pay less attention on the expertise we can develop on the automobile seat-covers (which we can produce as we are growing in leather industry). This aspect of comparative advantage is necessarily to be discovered at present to be an inevitable part of global value chain. Tourism no doubt is one of the best comparative advantage we possess.

Blending tourism and diplomacy in Nepal

Regarding the case of Nepal, the concept of economic diplomacy can be further broken down into subsets which help to boost Nepalese economy: labor diplomacy, energy diplomacy and tourism diplomacy. Tourism is advocated as a major source of economy by many economists. Apparently, it’s time for Nepal to devise and implement a notion of Tourism Diplomacy. Nepal is a boon for tourism which is our comparative advantage. Consequently, it is quite essential to blend tourism with diplomacy. Nexus with diplomacy is a long term investment which is expected to help us draw development through tourism and create a sustainable base of national economy.

So, what does tourism diplomacy signify? Time is here to accommodate this concept into the foreign policy of Nepal. Precisely, tourism could be incorporated in foreign policy of Nepal to effectively implement tourism diplomacy. Furthermore, Tourism diplomacy can be categorically understood from three interrelated levels: global level, regional level and national level.

Global level refers to specialized global institutions including United Nations-World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO). Nepal is a member state of UN-WTO for south Asia. This global forum is very important platform to promote tourism. UN-WTO also publishes newsletters and books regarding tourism development. Articles related to information on Nepalese tourism (also sites including Mt. Everest and Lumbini) could be published in such newsletters so that Nepal would be further recognized as a tourist spot in global arena.

Regional level nevertheless refers to multilateral forum of states in a region. Today’s economic and security necessities have surged the need of regional integration. Regionalism ranges from the need of collective security to economic cooperation. As discussed above about the breakdown of economic diplomacy into different subsets, regional economic cooperation can also be further broken down into different subsets: tourism being one of them. Nepal as a boon for tourism industry shall strongly put forward this concept of “tourism for regional cooperation” in different regional forums. Regional economic cooperation, a multilateral venue could incorporate comparative advantage of participating countries. As tourism is our comparative advantage, time has come to push forward and promote tourism agendas in such forums. To exemplify, Cambodia is strongly promoting tourism through regional cooperation. Hosting regional conferences and seminars in areas with tourism importance can be a skilled diplomatic move to promote tourism in regional basis. These days, media and social networks have been facilitating to spotlight a particular city where regional, global conferences are being held. Down the road if we dare to conduct SAARC meetings in Pokhara or Sauraha, then media would definitely help in promoting these cities in the international arena.

Another important aspect of tourism development through regional level is to employ assorted aspects that tourism naturally carries. Some of them can be identified as religion, culture, sports, medication, adventure etc. Owing to south Asian context, Nepal could make the most of religion in tourism promotion but the approaches shall differ. To exemplify, Indian people’s attraction for Hindu pilgrimage and Sri-Lankan’s appeal for Buddhist pilgrimage could be facilitated. Instead of limiting to single policy for regional forums, various policies as per interests and requirements can be created. But, diplomatic essence is required to put these different tourism policies in different ways. Regional institutions can be created using haulers of tourism as adventure sports association in SAARC could help promote adventure sports in regional basis.

The national level however firstly seeks conceptualization of tourism diplomacy in foreign policy. Then after, institutions are to be created. This institution is expected to comprise experts from the stream of international relations and tourism. This institution could collaborate with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation to understand tourism policies and devise methodologies to promote such tourism policies in international arena. They would study and devise methods diversifying the concept of tourism development into different levels i.e. global level, regional level and bilateral level.


Another major scope of creating such institution could be imparting training to diplomats. Endowing training to diplomats on probable tourism sectors, investment in tourism development infrastructures, and different aspects of sustainable tourism, is expected to achieve a long -term sustainable development via diplomacy. This institution would also analyze different variances of tourism, and proper policies would be devised based upon such variances. For e.g. adventure sports can be accommodated with trekking whereas religious pilgrimage can be accommodated with heritage and history.


Hence, constituting appropriate institutions with effective resources to view tourism through different levels is unavoidable. Tourism amalgamated with diplomacy will only make tourism a fruitful comparative advantage because tourism needs to be understood differently in different pyramids of international system. Appropriate policies needs to be devised at different levels and diplomats are to be trained accordingly to put forward our comparative advantage. This amalgamation of knowledge will generate diversified policies and practices for sustainable development.

 (Writer is pursuing Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy at the Tribhuwan University)

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