November 28: The Covid-19 pandemic had caused a major impact on the tourism sector of Nepal. Tourism activities, which received a major blow from the pandemic, remained halted for almost two years. Bhaktapur, which is listed in the World Heritage Site, has finally started getting tourists. Bhaktapur area which is one of the major tourist destinations is being visited by 60 to 90 tourists on a daily basis.
Gautam Lasiba, the head of Tourism Information Center of the municipality, shared that the Bhaktapur area has got back its charm after the arrival of foreign tourists. The municipality has put forward a plan to operate the tourism business safely and keep the tourists safe from Covid-19. The municipality has made necessary preparations to create a safe environment for tourists. It has been holding discussions with hoteliers to manage the tourists in a way to keep them safe from Covid-19. However, most of the tourists who come to Bhaktapur return back without spending the night. The hotel business has not been able to come into full operation as the number of tourists staying overnight is only few in number.
The municipality, which has been collecting revenue of around Rs 260 million annually from foreign tourists, has been facing loss for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lasiba said, “Tourism fee of around Rs 260 million was collected in the fiscal year 2076/77. The amount was reduced to 2.9 million after the Covid-19 outbreak.”
He informed that the municipality has been spending the money raised from tourism fees on education, health and heritage conservation. According to Lasiba, the number of tourists visiting Bhaktapur this year has been gradually increasing each month. This year, 228 tourists arrived from mid- July to mid-August, 380 from mid-August to mid-September, 964 from mid-September to mid-October and 1,923 from mid-October to mid-November.
Before the first lockdown, more than 3,000 tourists used to visit Bhaktapur daily and more than 200,000 annually. The municipality has been collecting a fee of Rs 500 per tourist belonging to the SAARC countries and China and Rs 1,500 per tourist from other countries. In the previous years, most of the tourists came from China, followed by India, the USA, France, Spain and other countries.
The municipality has been reconstructing the infrastructure destroyed by the earthquake and has also started rebuilding some of the important heritage sites that have been buried which include Bhaju Pokhari situated at Dudhpati. Preparations are being made to reconstruct the Ranipokhari situated inside the camp of Nepal Army and open it for the purpose of sightseeing for foreign tourists.
In Nepal, the period between late October to early December is considered as the peak season for tourism. Tourists who come to Nepal in October and November return home at the end of December to celebrate Christmas. According to the Center, in the past, about 35 percent of the tourists visiting Nepal used to come to Bhaktapur to see the heritage sites and most of them used to spend only three or four hours there.