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80 percent tourists cancel reservations in quake’s wake

  • Hoteliers expect post-quake slump could to last for six months
- SANGAM PRASAIN, KATHMANDU
80 percent tourists cancel reservations in quake’s wake

May 5, 2015-Hoteliers have reported that 80 percent of “spring breakers” have cancelled their reservations after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake rattled the country on April 25, causing widespread devastation. The future of Nepal’s high-end tourism is also in jeopardy after an avalanche in the Mt Everest region put the climbing season in uncertainty.

An estimated 45,000 tourists have left the country since the quake, leaving the tourism industry in the lurch. Hoteliers said they have stopped new bookings while cancellation of advance bookings is on the rise.

Prabesh Aryal, executive director of the Hotel Association of Nepal, the apex body of hotel industry, said that the industry expects the repercussion of the earthquake could last for next six months.

Ashok Pokhrel, president of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators, said that cancellation of advance booking would cross 90 percent soon due to problem with safety in Nepal. “The spring season has ruined but we are now looking for autumn season.”

Most of the five-star properties have not accepted new bookings. Hoteliers said the government team is assessing most of the hotels building to certify whether it is fit to live in. “After the certification, hotels will be resuming their normal business,” said Aryal.

The popular Soaltee Hotel plans to open on Tuesday while other five-star hotels like Hyatt Regency began operating after April 29.

Hotel Yak & Yeti has not closed its operation as it did not sustain major damage. Bharat Joshi, resident manager of the hotel, said that they were fully occupied as of Monday by the guests, mostly foreign rescue teams, media personnel, members of international agencies and some tourist. “But we are not sure on our occupancy after mid-May,” Joshi said, adding that in the last few days, 40 percent of their advance bookings have been cancelled.

Hoteliers said that even if the occupancies hover to around 30-40 percent in May-August period, it would be a big relief for them.

 “We encourage travellers to come back to Nepal soon after the country starts a sign of recovery from the recent disaster,” said Pokhrel.

One of the pillars of Nepali economy, tourism earnings directly benefit the rural economy. Nepal received nearly 800,000 tourists bringing in Rs 46 billion in revenue last year.

Travel trade entrepreneurs are of the view that Nepal needs major promotional campaign in major source market to bring the industry in right track. “To bring things in the right direction, there is a need for massive promotional campaign both by the government and the private sector in the major source market,” said Aryal.

The country has two peak tourist seasons—March-May in spring and September-November in autumn—accounting 70 percent of total tourists arrivals.

Typically, the March-May usually sends occupancy levels beyond 80 percent for most hotels, but this year bookings were scanty after March 4 incident when a Turkish Airlines plane crash-landed on the runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport. Hundreds of passengers, both foreign and international, were stranded in Kathmandu for four days. Subsequently, an indefinite general strike by the UCPN (Maoist)-led opposition added more woes on the tourism industry.

An initial analysis of the Asian Development Bank on economic impact of the Nepal earthquake, showed that travel and tourism is likely to be badly hit with most key hotels shutting down for the weeks to come to examine the structural integrity of their buildings.

It said that although this sector’s direct and indirect contribution was only about 9 percent of gross domestic product in 2014, it is one of the fastest-growing sectors and has significant backward and forward linkages in terms of employment and production.

However, industry insiders said there may be a silver lining. “If the damaged tourism infrastructure and heritage sites are restored promptly, Nepal’s tourism may not see a long-term effect,” said Pokhrel.

PATA pledges assistance to Nepal’s tourism sctor

KATHMANDU: The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Foundation has committed assistance to its Nepal chapter in its recovery after the earthquake on April 25 devastated much of Kathmandu’s tourism infrastructure. The PATA Foundation has established a Nepal Earthquake Tourism Recovery Fund to which the Foundation has contributed an initial amount of $10,000. Peter Semone, chairman of PATA Foundation Board of Trustees, said: “Without question, we anticipate a great need for reconstruction of iconic heritage and culture sites as well as interventions to help people and organizations rebuild their tourism businesses.”

The earthquake reduced a majority of the Unesco World Heritage Sites into rubble. Damage has been caused to numerous historic buildings and archaeological locations, including six Unesco World Heritage Site—Basantapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Temple, Changunarayan Temple, Boudhhanath inside the Kathmandu Valley.

Published: 05-05-2015 04:00

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