As the tourist season is nearing and the people's movement is gradually normalising in the country, tourism entrepreneurs have been frequently asking the government to relax health safety protocols for tourists.

In the recent days, tourism entrepreneurs and related associations have been holding regular meetings with the government bodies to request them to relax the protocols. However, the government still seems uncertain about relaxing health safety protocols for tourists anytime soon.

Earlier, 37 tourism associations - including Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), Tourist Guide Association of Nepal (TURGAN), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) - had submitted a nine-point demand to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). However, the ministry has not taken any step on this issue.

"We have been receiving frequent requests from the tourism entrepreneurs and the ministry is serious about this issue. However, without the permission of COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) we cannot do anything," said MoCTCA Spokesperson Taranath Adhikari.

He said that the ministry has, nonetheless, held a meeting with the concerned authorities regarding relaxing health safety protocols.

"Since the issue is a very sensitive one, the Cabinet has to take a decision on it. Through the Cabinet, the CCMC will direct the ministry, and only then will we be able to implement the government's decision," he added.

Meanwhile, Raj Kumar Chhetri, spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), said that the airport is one of the sensitive areas for the COVID-19 infection. Thus, the health safety protocols are needed to be followed carefully.

"Moreover, looking at the second wave of the pandemic in several countries and new variants of the virus, the government should take the decision wisely," he said, "Of course we need tourists however, we also need to ensure their security."

The tourism entrepreneurs have asked the government to remove the provision for tourist to stay in quarantine mandatorily if they have negative report of PCR test. They have also said that those tourists who have been inoculated against the coronavirus should be allowed to travel freely. Similarly, they have asked the government to implement on-arrival visa and online visa application service as well as to start operating flights from other restricted countries too.

The entrepreneurs have also demanded that the government prioritise tourism sector workers in the priority list for vaccination against the COVID-19 as the tourist season is nearing.

TAAN President Khum Bahadur Subedi lamented the government's inaction to their 'genuine' demands. "While every other activity has normalised, why is the government not relaxing the curbs on tourism sector?" he asked. "The spring season will begin soon and tourists are eager to travel to Nepal. Ironically, our own protocols are discouraging them to visit."

A version of this article appears in the print on March 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.