TIA closure has knock-on effect on Pokhara hotels

- SHIVA SHARMA, Kaski
TIA closure has knock-on effect on Pokhara hotels

Mar 12, 2015-

Pokhara’s hotel business took a pounding in the midst of the tourist season after Nepal’s sole international airport in Kathmandu was paralysed for four days when a Turkish Airlines jet nose-dived on the runway and blocked it.

The closure of the airport prevented at least 50,000 people from flying in or out, a majority of whom were tourists, travel trade entrepreneurs said. They added that uncertainty over flights to and from Nepal had forced many foreign travellers to change their plans.

The March-May and September-November periods are the peak tourist seasons in Nepal. Hordes of trekkers throng Nepal during this time as it offers pleasant weather for trekking and other adventure activities.

The Butterfly Lodge had been booked by 40 Korean tourists a week ago, but their reservations had to be cancelled at the last hour. “This is the peak tourist season. Hotels were fully booked for this season. Unfortunately, the closure of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for four consecutive days from last Wednesday prompted a flurry of cancellations,” said Govinda Pahari, the lodge operator.

Similarly, a three-star property Atithi Resort had been reserved for 200 tourists, particularly Europeans and Chinese. “The visitors who had planned a week-long trip to Nepal were forced to cancel or shorten their stay,” said Bharat Sharma, the proprietor of the resort. “We had a cent percent booking. But now, 50 percent of them have been cancelled.”

According to him, booking cancellations have caused a loss of Rs 2 million to each standard hotel and resort in Pokhara. The luxury hotels—Hotel Fulbari, Shangri-La and Hotel Grand—have also been affected greatly.

The Lakeside area that used to be crowded with tourists wears a deserted look now. Not only the hotels, the cancellations have also affected restaurants, tour and trekking operators and paragliding and ultra light companies.

More than 50 percent of the tourists coming to Pokhara go for Annapurna trekking. “We had a booking for eight American tourists for trekking, but it was cancelled due to the airport’s closure,” said Tikaram Sapkota of Fujiyama Treks & Expedition. “The number of trekkers has dropped sharply.”

Bharat Parajuli, president of the Hotel Association Nepal Western Region Chapter, said that the Turkish Airlines mishap had multiple effects on Nepal’s tourism.

“We have estimated that around 50 percent of the tourists have cancelled their trips.” Meanwhile, hotel occupancy could dip to 30 percent in March. Last October, a blizzard and avalanche that hit Western Nepal killed 39 people including Nepalis and foreigners. The Nepal Army rescued nearly 300 trekkers on the popular Annapurna Circuit that passes through Manang and Mustang districts.

“This chain of accidents will have long-term repercussions on the country’s tourism,” said Sundar Kumar Shrestha, former president of the Pokhara Tourism Council. There are 450 tourist standard hotels in Pokhara and around 200 restaurants.

Published: 13-03-2015 08:56

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