Chitwan Park lodges’ closure rankles tourism sector

KATHMANDU: Though one of the top wild life tourism destinations in the country, Chitwan National Park is on the verge of losing its identity. During a press meet here today, people related to the tourism sector opined that Chitwan is a quality tourist arrival destination which since the last four decades has been successful in setting a benchmark for different tourist destinations and activities.

“Wild life tourism available at Chitwan is listed as one of the best destinations after South Africa,” said Prakash Shrestha, owner of Machan Wildlife Resort.

According to him, an agreement was signed 16 years ago and they are trying for the renewal process but to no avail as during end of Ashad seven lodges were notified for closure.

The closure of lodges and restaurant will decrease tourist arrivals by 15 per cent, said Shrestha adding that it takes years to create a single tourist destination and promote it.

There is no reason and

no logic behind the closure of lodges at the national park. There has to some

justification for this

issue, Shrestha added.

“We were told the

closure is regarding environmental safety, but our major product is ecology and environment and

not food variety or other aspects,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) president Basanta Raj Shrestha opined that tour operators are being cheated.

According to him, around more than 1500 people are directly employed while 5000 others are indirectly employed in this sector at Chitwan which has created a good living standard of even lower income group people there.

The closure will leave many of the workers there unemployed, said Mishra.

Earlier Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO), PATA Nepal Chapter, Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA) and Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (REBON) jointly expressed serious concern over the closure of hotels and lodges at Chitwan National Park. According to them, the closure

of these hotels and lodges will directly affect the tourism sector of the place and hence directly affect the preservation of wild

life. It will also increase

unemployment and have an effect on Nepal Tourism Year 2011.

According to Mishra, during a meeting with representatives of the tourism sector Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Singh Bhandari gave an of assurance to reopen the closed establishments but nothing has been done so far. Due to the closure of lodges at National Chitwan Park

the number of tour packages has gone hotch-potch as bookings have been made till 2012, said Shrestha. Even Indian tour operators are affected due to the closure.