Print Edition - 2015-05-27 | MONEY
Officials declare Everest Hotel, some heritage properties ‘unsafe’
- HAN: 90 percent of hotels still safe; damaged properties could be renovated
May 26, 2015-
A team of Department of Tourism and Hotel Association of Nepal, alongside government engineers, inspected 16 luxury hotels in the Kathmandu valley in the past few days.
The five-star property had initially been given a ‘green sticker’ after the April 25 Great Quake, declaring it fit for habitation. However, strong and continuous aftershocks since then had made it unsafe to live in, officials said on Tuesday.
A government inspection team placed a red sticker on the property on Tuesday, meaning that the structure had been damaged to the extent that it is now dangerous to inhabit. The hotel has been asked evacuate the occupants as soon as possible.
“As retrofitting of the building is necessary to avert seismic disasters, we have urged the hotel to act accordingly,” said Koshnath Adhikari, a leader of the inspection team. A number of structural experts had said that the hotel could be operated after repairs. “But considering that a five-star hotel should have adequate safety measures, we decided to red-tag the property.”
Adhikari, a senior divisional engineer at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, said that after a second round of inspections, they found out that the powerful aftershock on May 12 had severely damaged three main pillars in the hotel’s lobby.
The team will also be making a second round of inspections of another five-star property the Hotel Malla. Hotel Association Nepal (Han) has claimed that 90 percent of the hotels in the Kathmandu valley are fit for habitation. Meanwhile, the government team has said that a number of hotel buildings dating from the Rana period and heritage structures should either be dismantled or strengthened. According to Adhikari, a heritage building of the Kathmandu Guest House has been given a red sticker and not the whole hotel.
Likewise, the Hunter’s Lodge Restaurant at the Gokarna Forest Resort has also received a red sticker. The inspectors have recommended that it be dismantled. The property is more than 150 years-old, with a history of royalties using it. The team has also placed a red sticker on the old building of Dhulikhel Resort in Dhulikhel, though the rest of the property is said to be fine.
Adhikari said that the resort had started demolishing the old building. A tourist-standard Budget Hotel in Thamel collapsed during the earthquake.
It has become difficult to assess the stability of hotel structures and ascertain if they have been weakened by the quake due to lack of manpower, structural experts said. They can be strengthened through retrofitting.
Except for a few five-star hotels with 25-30 percent occupancy, all the luxury and tourist-standard hotels in the Capital have reported poor occupancy.
Amar Man Shakya, first vice-president of Han, said that rescue and media personnel were keeping a few five-star hotels busy, but many hotels were getting only 4-5 percent occupancy.
The hospitality sector is worried that the trend might last a long time. A survey entitled Economic Activities Report 2013-14 conducted by Nepal Rastra Bank showed that there are 1,792 hotels and lodges in the country producing 36,371 room nights daily.
The country’s five-star hotels produce a combined 57,000 room nights every month. According to the Tourism Ministry, the average occupancy of five-star properties in April and May normally stands at 65 percent and 55 percent respectively.
The sharp drop in visitors after the earthquake and constant aftershocks is apparent in the tourist district of Thamel. Tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara have already announced heavy discount packages in a bid to bring back tourists.
Travel trade entrepreneurs have also formed various bodies to revive the country’s tourism industry and have urged tourists to visit Nepal during the autumn.
The entrepreneurs say the tourist destinations are still safe and attractive and they could attract tourists.
The Annapurna Trekking Route, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Bandipur, Tansen, Dolpa, Rara and Bardia are some of the destinations that were not affected by the tremor.
THREE HERITAGE SITES TO REOPEN
The Department of Archaeology has decided to reopen three heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley that were reduced to rubble by the quake to visitors by June-end.
Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson at the department, said that they had been working to reopen Kathmandu Durbar Square, Swayambhu and Patan Durbar Square to sightseers. According to him, Patan Durbar Square will be reopened in three-four days.
“As it will take six or seven years to fully renovate the damaged sites, we have decided to reopen them after confirming that they are safe to visit.”
Private sector representatives have urged the government to not only rebuild the heritage sites but also add necessary infrastructure to make them attractive and provide basic facilities to visitors.
Published: 27-05-2015 07:31