Tourism in the digital era

Sujeev Shakya
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes.

When we talked about promoting tourism, it was that opportunity of being able to be at ITB Berlin or WTM London. It was about physically being there with brochures, like selling your wares at the weekend market or village haat. People swing by your stall; you try to sell your wares based on the promo materials you have, and then rely on them to be able to send you a group of tourists.

The digital world has brought about many disruptions. You can book your tickets, hotels, tours and everything you would like to do online. Portals like Trip Advisor give you reviews to decide which destinations to look out for, and which products and services. The world of Instagram and TikTok has allowed you to view destinations, products and services from people you believe in and created tremendous peer pressure. Then there are internet entertainment platforms like Netflix where you can, apart from movies and innumerable series, gain access to many high quality documentaries and other materials that can make you think about different destinations you have never dreamt about.

New dimension

The last decade has changed how people view travel and choose what and where they eat, drink or carry out leisure activities. The pandemic has also added a new dimension where people travelled virtually during times of lockdown and restricted movements, and made some bucket lists for physical trips. Of course, there are the influencers, anyone with a device who can show you a whole new world you have never imagined.

In Kathmandu, with diverse speakers at a Neftalk organised by the Nepal Economic Forum, we discussed what is happening to tourism in the digital era and explored the disruptions and opportunities. There are three things to look out for.

First, there are new mediums that drive people’s travel decisions. For instance, the success of 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, a Netflix production with Nims Purja climbing all 14 eight-thousanders, triggered the imagination of many people, which was reflected in tourist arrivals to Nepal. Globally, people who have watched local content are 2.4 times more likely to make the place their #1 travel destination. Similarly, the video around the visit of the Prince of Bahrain and a vlogger from Qatar during the pandemic has let people in the Middle East who thought of Europe and the United States as premium destinations start to think about Nepal. At a luxury hotel in Pokhara, I was asked by a couple from the United Arab Emirates as to why we do not have $1,500 a night hotels as there would be lots from their country who would be interested.

Second, domestic tourism, which has been the bread and butter of many destinations in Nepal, has just exploded due to digital mediums. We hardly saw any sustained campaigns from any agency to lure local tourists, but then vloggers posting their bike ride videos on YouTube, Instagram and now TikTok have changed the fate of Nepali domestic tourism. People like Sisan Bainya have taken production quality seriously, and people want to follow him to the places he and his team have been.

Imagine Nepal is capturing such imagination of Nepali travellers. With a diaspora population of over 5 million, excluding India, across 180 countries, we will see a considerable demand surge from Nepalis visiting for religious or social purposes or just embarking on pure fun! For the domestic tourists, with the easing of payments through digital platforms, it’s all digital. Be it finding a destination, making bookings, paying for it, writing reviews and then posting about your trip. With more women joining the workforce, nuclear families and the concept of holidays not being limited to playing cards and drinking will significantly increase domestic tourism growth.

Third, the biggest challenge for Nepal to manage would be to ensure tourism has sustainable growth. The littering of trekking trails with cans of alcoholic beverages, bottles of aerated drinks and many other packaging materials is a huge issue. Structures are mushrooming everywhere to house travellers without proper planning. Everest is a golden goose we are killing by selling it too cheap. We have to think of the destination as super high-end. With a fragile ecology and biodiversity, we need to conserve; we need to use the same digital platforms to spread messages on pushing sustainable tourism. We have the commitments we made at COP26 to remember and the government’s Green Resilient Inclusive Development Action Plan to bear in mind.

Virtual reality

Finally, we need to prepare for tourists who will want to get to Nepal without actually getting to Nepal. With virtual reality and augmented reality becoming the future, with the Metaverse becoming the future real estate, we need to be there. We need to exploit these platforms to attract more people coming in person. We need to create that buzz of a destination that people will yearn to visit as we are one of the most photogenic countries in the world.

For all this to be leveraged, we need it to be private sector-led and come out of the shells of cartels, and we need the government to continue to provide a legislative and regulatory environment that facilitates these developments rather than thinking of stifling them in the name of controls. In many countries, governments have relied on self-regulation as a governance model. This is mainly due to the unique features of online content. Technology allows an individual to make an informed decision about how, when and what content they consume. We have missed many previous waves of disruptions, this one, we should not.

courtesy: The kathmandu post


A bird born in cage; dies in cage!

Raju Ahmed, Staff Correspondent,
photo: Barta24

photo: Barta24

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Hearing the word Bajrigar, one thinks of a hunter or a brave person or animal. Although the name has an obsession with speed, in reality the name of a small bird of calm and beauty is Bajrigar.

Crooked yellow lips, blue, white or mixed skin color. Sometimes people are born with all the colors of the rainbow. This bird has different names depending on the skin color. But whatever the color, the little bird is incomparable in intelligence. This bird has the unique quality of showing love by gently touching the partner sometimes by kissing the lips, sometimes by gently touching the partner's head as a responsible loved one.

With all these qualities and easy to pet, Bajrigar is at the top of the list of bird lovers. The millet bird is capable of grabbing people's attention even if they don't want to due to physical activity. That's why bird lovers are desperate to keep Bajrigor in a cage. Capitalizing on the needs of people, commercial farms have also been established in different parts of the country. But as the environment of the country is not favorable for the Bajrigar bird, it is not possible to keep this bird in the open air. So over time the current synopsis of the forest millet of the east and south-west coast regions of Australia is born in a cage, died in a cage.

Bajrigar bird is a well-known pet bird but it is known by different names depending on the place and region. In America the millet is known as Little Parakeet. This bird is also known as Baji or Shell Parakeet, Canary Parrot, Zebra Parrot, Common Pet Parakeet, Undulated Parakeet Bajrigor and Badri.

Typically wild millet is about 6.5–7 inches in length and about 7–8 inches in cage. Besides, wild millet is 25–35 gm and caged millet is up to 35–40 gm. Adult male millets have blue membranes around their nostrils. This membrane extends between the forehead and lips along with the nostrils. A mature female millet has a brown membrane surrounding its nostrils. This membrane extends between the forehead and lips along with the nostrils.

At the age of 8-9 months, millets become adults. Bajrigor birds are able to lay 8-13 eggs at a time. And at the time of laying eggs, millet birds also need a secluded place. It takes 18 days from egg to hatch. The average lifespan of millet birds is 4-5 years, but can live up to 10-12 years in cages.

This small species of bird is also popular for its intelligence. Hearing ability is also very good. It can remember big words or sentences very easily. As soon as millet hears a word from its owner, it remembers and repeats it. So the attraction of bird lovers is more in Bajrigor.

Although it is an exotic bird, it is found in different parts of the country. Besides, there is a fair of bajrigar birds in the university market of Kantaban area of the capital every day. Although coastal areas are the native habitat of these birds, one or more cage mates are sufficient for their survival. Keeping that in mind, traders have arranged a family of birds in cages at University Market. They have tried to match male and female millers and pair them according to age. The chirping and beauty of many miller birds together attracts the passers-by.

Manager of New Bird Paradise Noor Hossain said, due to its beauty and flexibility, Bajrigor is the top choice of bird lovers. Although we brought it from abroad earlier, now Bajrigar bird farms have been established in different parts of the country. Tk. 500-1000 birds with cages are available. Anyone can keep a bird very easily as we provide information on bird food and care.

Meanwhile, many people have become self-sufficient by building commercial bajrigar bird farms in different regions of the country. Among them is Imran Hossain of Syedpur Upazila of Nilphamari. He is now self-sufficient by building a commercial bird farm with only Tk. 13 thousand. Currently, his farm has birds worth about Tk. 3 lakh. And now Imran's monthly income is about Tk. 50 thousand by selling bajrigar birds. He has also gained a lot of experience in keeping millet birds for a long time.

Imran Hossain told that bajrigar cannot survive even five minutes in the open air in the environment of our country. It can't escape from attacks of other birds and snakes, frogs, rats and small animals on the ground. As a result, it is better to keep this bird in a cage or small house in the country.

Wild animals are beautiful in the forest, children in the mother's heart are proverbial but nature and environment sometimes wants an exception. And so, to keep the beauty alive, birth in the cage and death in the cage is now a big identity of the millet bird.


Nayeem & Maliha : Two Iconic Culinary Artists got into wedlock

Masid Rono, Snr. Newsroom Editor,
chef couple nayeem-maliha

chef couple nayeem-maliha

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Nayeem Ashraf Rahmatullah & Fatema Tuzzohra Maliha, names of two very talented Culinary Stars of Bangladesh. Both completed their education in Culinary Sector from abroad, before they resumed their careers in homeland, Dhaka. Interestingly, Nayeem is specialized in Japanese Cuisine while Maliha in French Cuisine.

These duos happily got married last December 2023, their pre-wedding function “Haldi Night” took place at a popular Echo Resort in Chittagong called Matita and the “Wedding Ceremony” ended up at Hotel Agrabad Chittagong with fanfare, while their “Reception Ceremony” was organized at Capital’s “Shooting Club” in Gulshan.

chef couple nayeem-maliha

Reflecting on his recent wedding, Nayeem Ashraf shared his feelings to this correspondent that he came to know Fatema not too long ago. The brief interactions with the lady culminated into friendship leading to a more intimate relationship. “We got married with the positive consent of our guardian of both families and started our new conjugal life, do pray for us so that we can have a smooth sailing in our marital journey,” Nayeem added.

chef couple nayeem-maliha

Fatema has a rich experience of working in Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives and India. After returning from the overseas, today’s “Hello Dhaka” of Gulshan made its debut with Fatema’s close supervision. Currently she is working in her capacity as “Executive Chef” at a popular food joint “MANZO” which is considered to be one of the top end restaurants in Gulshan Avenue. Sharing her experience, Fatema mentioned, I have been pursuing Culinary Arts as an undergrad from a renowned and one of the world’s oldest French Culinary School (Le Cordon Bleu) in Malaysia.

chef couple nayeem-maliha

Fatema’s skill & passion gave her the exposure to be a part in an “International Live Cooking Show” at Taj Hotel, Mumbai with many other renowned, senior chefs, where she had drawn attention & appreciation, being the youngest participant with great passion and skill in culinary arts. Recently, Fatema has been awarded “First Female Executive Chef of Bangladesh” plaque at hotel Le Meridian, Dhaka.

chef couple nayeem-maliha in work place

On the other hand, Nayeem Ashraf returned home after working with multiple world-renowned chefs in famous restaurants across the globe, and currently serving as the CEO & Culinary Instructor of his own Hospitality Integrated Education Epicenter called SHINEE at Badda, Gulshan. The institution has earned much reputation and popularity around the country which has a new branch that will be recently launched at Rajshahi and another new wing is about to be added in Port City, Chittagong soon.

chef couple nayeem-maliha

The dream of this couple is to float a standard, bench mark restaurant in Dhaka where they can give a life time experience to all food connoisseurs.


Intermittent Fasting, Calorie Cutting Bring Equal Weight Loss

International Desk
photo: collected

photo: collected

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Fasting for 8 hours is as good as counting calories for weight loss, new research shows.

The study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that people with obesity lost 10 pounds through intermittent fasting, compared to 12 pounds through calorie restriction. The statistical analysis found no significant difference between the two groups’ weight loss.

Most of the people in the study were female and weighed around 220 pounds at the start of the trial. A total of 77 people were split into three groups: One was told to fast for 8 hours, another was told to restrict their calories, and the third ate as they normally would.

The people who fasted and restricted calories were in a weight loss phase for 6 months – the intermittent fasting group could eat anything they wanted between noon and 8 p.m., and didn’t have to cut their calories.

The calorie restriction group had to cut 25% of their daily calorie intake. They were also told to fill half of every plate with fruits or vegetables, and consume about half their calories as carbohydrates, 30% as fat, and 20% as protein.

For 6 months after that, both groups were in a weight maintenance phase. The intermittent fasting group could eat from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the calorie restriction group was told to match their diet with their energy needs.

The people in the study met regularly with dietitians – a part of the trial that experts say could have made the effects of fasting more pronounced than in previous studies.

An earlier, shorter trial found that people lost about 2 pounds after 12 weeks of intermittent fasting, a more modest result, compared to the 9 pounds that lost after 6 months in this trial.

Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, is a catch-all for eating patterns that could include several full days of fasting per week or time-restricted eating during the day.

The effect of having less time to eat is thought to lead to eating fewer calories, and therefore losing weight. This trial found the intermittent fasting group ate 425 fewer calories per day and 20 calories less than the calorie-restricted group.

“Time-restricted eating is undoubtedly an attractive approach to weight loss in that it does not require the purchase of expensive food products, allows persons to continue consuming familiar foods, and omits complicated calorie tracking,” Shuhao Lin, a registered dietitian at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and colleagues write in the paper.


Seven Myths about Mental Health

News Desk,
Seven Myths about Mental Health

Seven Myths about Mental Health

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Dispelling myths about mental health can help break the stigma and create a culture that encourages people of any age to seek support when they need it. Here are seven common misconceptions about mental health:

  1. Myth: If a person has a mental health condition, it means the person has low intelligence.

Fact: Mental illness, like physical illness, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class, or income level.

  1. Myth: You only need to take care of your mental health if you have a mental health condition.

Fact: Everyone can benefit from taking active steps to promote their well-being and improve their mental health. Similarly, everyone can take active steps and engage in healthy habits to optimize their physical health.

  1. Myth: Poor mental health is not a big issue for teenagers. They just have mood swings caused by hormonal fluctuations and act out due to a desire for attention.

Fact: Teenagers often have mood swings, but that does not mean that adolescents may not also struggle with their mental health. Fourteen per cent of the world’s adolescents experience mental-health problems. Globally, among those aged 10–15, suicide is the fifth most prevalent cause of death, and for adolescents aged 15–19 it is the fourth most common cause. Half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14.

  1. Myth: Nothing can be done to protect people from developing mental health conditions.

Fact: Many factors can protect people from developing mental health conditions, including strengthening social and emotional skills, seeking help and support early on, developing supportive, loving, warm family relationships, and having a positive school environment and healthy sleep patterns. The ability to overcome adversity relies on a combination of protective factors, and neither environmental nor individual stressors alone will necessarily result in mental health problems. Children and adolescents who do well in the face of adversity typically have biological resistance as well as strong, supportive relationships with family, friends and adults around them, resulting in a combination of protective factors to support well-being.

  1. Myth: A mental health condition is a sign of weakness; if the person were stronger, they would not have this condition.

Fact: A mental health condition has nothing to do with being weak or lacking willpower. It is not a condition people choose to have or not have. In fact, recognizing the need to accept help for a mental health condition requires great strength and courage. Anyone can develop a mental health condition.

  1. Myth: Adolescents who get good grades and have a lot of friends will not have mental health conditions because they have nothing to be depressed about.

Fact: Depression is a common mental health condition resulting from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. Depression can affect anyone regardless of their socioeconomic status or how good their life appears at face value. Young people doing well in school may feel pressure to succeed, which can cause anxiety, or they may have challenges at home. They may also experience depression or anxiety for no reason that can be easily identified.

  1. Myth: Bad parenting causes mental conditions in adolescents.

Fact: Many factors – including poverty, unemployment, and exposure to violence, migration, and other adverse circumstances and events – may influence the well-being and mental health of adolescents, their caregivers and the relationship between them. Adolescents from loving, supporting homes can experience mental health difficulties, as can adolescent from homes where there may be caregivers who need support to maintain an optimum environment for healthy adolescent development. With support, caregivers can play an essential role in helping adolescents to overcome any problems they experience.

(This article is based on UNICEF and the World Health Organization's Teacher’s Guide to the Magnificent Mei and Friends Comic Series.)