| June 27, 2019

Pokhara tourism passing through 'most challenging time' in history

Pokhara tourism passing through 'most challenging time' in history
POKHARA, July 27: Tourism industry in Pokhara is passing through the most challenging time in its history, tourism entrepreneuers say.

Local tourism entrepreneurs, who braved decade-long insurgency due to which many hotels were closed, say they were not in a difficult situation like this even during the insurgency.
Tourism industry of Pokhara had been drawing investments in hotels, restaurants and other tourism services from both domestic and international investors before the earthquake. Construction works on many such projects have come to a grinding halt since the earthquake of April 25.

Biplav Paudel, who runs Hotel Barahi -- one of the oldest hotels in Pokhara, said his hotel saw the lowest occupancy in its history of around two decades after the earthquake.

The hotel, which started operation two decades ago with 21 rooms, now has 85 rooms.

"Our occupancy was near to nil for few days aftermath the earthquake. Though the Maoist insurgency had affected tourism industry badly, hotel occupancy had not dropped to this level," Paudel said, adding that most of the hotels in Pokhara are operating in loss.

Tourist activities started in Pokhara in the 1970s because of the attraction of hippies toward Mt Annapurna and Mt Machhapuchhre. Trekking started gaining popular in the 1980s. But investments in infrastructures came only after the political change of 1990s. Local entrepreneurs say tourism started flourishing in Pokhara after the country observed Visit Nepal Year 1998 campaign.

Khageswor Adhikari, human resource manager of Shangri La Village Resort, said his resort reported lowest occupancy in its 19-year history after the earthquake. "We have been keeping the resort open with great difficulty," he said, adding, "At a time when tourism business was at its peak, the earthquake took it down to zero level."

According to tourism entrepreneurs, investors, who are running hotels and resorts by taking land and building on lease, are in a really difficult situation.

Tourism expert Jhalak Thapa, who has seen many ups and downs of tourism industry of Pokhara over the past 46 years, said Pokhara tourism industry is experiencing the most difficult time in its history. "Even during insurgency, Pokhara was getting few local and international visitors. But after the earthquake, there are not tourists at all," said Thapa.

Bharat Ram Parajuli, president of Paschimanchal Hotel Association of Pokhara (PHAP), said local hotels and resorts recorded lowest occupancy in history after the earthquake. "Tourism was still running during insurgency as tourists were never targeted. Now tourists are afraid of visiting Nepal as natural disaster cannot be controll"d," Parajuli said, adding that they were eagerly waiting for the autumn season.

The association hopes that local hotels will see at least 50 percent occupancy in autumn.