Nepal in Nat Geo’s Cool List amid tourism gloom

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Dec 9, 2015-

A drop in hotel bookings, empty airplane seats and fewer trekkers are what Nepal has experienced since the April 25 earthquake and subsequent trade embargo by India that has led to massive losses in the tourism industry this year.

But there is some good news too. Nepal has been included in National Geographic Traveller magazine’s Cool List for 2016. The UK-based popular travel publication has placed Nepal in the sixth spot among 16 cool locations to visit next year.

“Tourist numbers to Nepal plummeted by 85 percent after the devastating earthquakes, but the country is once more open for business and safe to visit, with a new government-backed website providing official updates on affected areas,” said National Geographic Traveller magazine.

“This is a nation that has long relied heavily on tourism, with many visitors lured by the chance to combine volunteerism with an adventure holiday in a stunning landscape.”

Ashok Pokhrel, president of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators, said that National Geographic Traveller magazine was highly popular among adventure travellers, and that the 16 must-see destinations for next year would help motivate them to travel to Nepal.

“Besides, the government should also promote Nepal more aggressively, and a large budget should be set aside for marketing for next year once the political tensions are settled,” he said. The government should lead the industry at this time as the private sector that is on the verge of bankruptcy is not in a position to promote Nepal, he added.

Tourist arrivals plunged 46 percent in the first 10 months as a series of disasters pounded Nepal’s tourism sector, a government report said.

According to a report prepared by the Tourism Ministry, Nepal lost 352,330 arrivals during the review period, hitting foreign exchange earnings and jobs in the industry. The country received 300,325 foreign visitors by air until October, down from 652,655 in the same period last year.

Bad times started for Nepal tourism with the accident of a Turkish Airlines jet at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport in March that led hundreds of potential visitors to cancel their trips.

The next month, the country was struck by a killer quake which destroyed tourism infrastructure, heritage sites and trekking trails. The dreadful event on April 25 set off a mass departure of tourists and a flurry of booking cancellations.

Just as tourism was beginning to recover from the effects of the deadly tremor, a political problems following the promulgation of a much-delayed constitution resulted in a fuel crisis which dealt another blow to the tottering industry. The current scenario is even worse. The trade embargo and resultant fuel shortage has forced hotels and restaurants to shut down, cut down job numbers and reduced the tourist length of stay to all-time lows.  The ministry said that tourists were currently staying for less than six days in Nepal. Last year, the average length of stay was 12.44 days. The average occupancy of hotels plunged below 20 percent in October following the Tarai unrest and fuel crisis. A number of hotels have closed down and others have laid off their workers.

Published: 09-12-2015 08:58

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