March 22: The streets of Pokhara, a prime destination of tourists, look deserted these days. This lake city is generally full of life and with lots of tourists during normal days. But the coronavirus pandemic has taken toll on the major source of income of the city which relies on tourism.
The government’s order to close all sectors except the essential ones has resulted in decline in the number of domestic tourists as well in major tourist destinations in the city. Most of the people have preferred to stay indoors due to the fear of contracting the deadly disease.
The flow of international tourists has almost come to a complete halt after the government and various other countries imposed travel bans to curb the spread of the virus. The government has banned international flights to the Tribhuvan International Airport from countries with confirmed cases.
The country’s economy was getting back on track after the devastating earthquakes of 2015 as the coronavirus outbreak played the spoilsport this time.
The months of March, April and May are considered peak tourist season in Nepal. Tourism entrepreneurs make most of the profit during this season. But the tourism industry has suffered a great setback this year due to the lack of tourists in the peak season.
Tourism entrepreneurs are deeply worried about the current crisis. They were hopeful of a good season due to the announcement of Visit Nepal 2020 campaign by the government this year. But all hopes have now faded as their worst nightmare has instead come true.
The halt in arrival of tourists has brought the hotel and restaurant businesses as well as travel and trekking expeditions to a standstill. It has also risked the closure of the entire tourism industry.
Binod Poudel, who has been operating a trekking agency since the last two decades, says his business in on the brink of collapse. He said tourism industry is his main source of income and he has had to remain idle since the last one and a half months.
“My whole business is at stake. I am worried how will I pay the school fees of my children. I am equally worried about paying the house rent,” he said.
Poudel said he even failed to get any loan at this time of crisis.
Another tourism entrepreneur Netra Poudel says the coronavirus outbreak has caused much more problems than the havoc created by the 2015 earthquakes.
“Back in 2015, we still had some business. But our business has now come to a complete halt,” he said.
With the nosedive in arrival of tourists, the hotel industry in Pokhara has started sending the staffers home.
Prithvi Lamichhane, who runs Durbar Inn Hotel in Lakeside, Pokhara, says his business is nil since one and a half months. He said that he gave home leave to seven of his hotel staffers due to cancellation of bookings one after another.
The situation of Yatra Courtyard Hotel and Resort is no different at all. Almost all the 40 rooms of the hotel are unoccupied since more than a month now. The proprietor of the hotel is preparing to lay off more than five dozens staff of the hotel for at least a month.
“We are planning to provide non-paid leave for one month for the time being. We will decide our next move as per the situation,” said Arun Giri, general manager of the hotel.