Against the threat of second wave of coronavirus pandemic, tourism entrepreneurs cautiously welcomed the domestic tourists that flocked to the hotels and resorts located at various tourist destinations of the country to celebrate the Nepali New Year.

"Although we had pinned our hopes on domestic tourists for revival of our business, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases dampened our spirits," admitted Deepak Bhattarai, president of Regional Hotel Association Chitwan.

Compared to the recent months, the number of domestic tourists has, nevertheless, been satisfying in the past few days.

"We have witnessed increasing movement of domestic tourists in the past few months, but were not expecting huge crowds in the Nepali New Year because of the growing threat of COVID-19," he said, adding that though they were expecting more number of guests earlier, they are satisfied with the turnout.

At present, the occupancy rate is around 25 per cent in 110 hotels located in Chitwan, Bhattarai said. According to him, the association has provided 20 to 40 per cent discount to the customers this year.

Similarly, Bikal Tulachan, president of Paschimanchal Hotel Association Pokhara, said that the number of domestic tourists has gone up significantly over the last two days.

"Pokhara is always the first choice for most people to spend their holidays.

And the flow of domestic tourists amid the pandemic is quite satisfactory," he added. There are definitely more people out on the streets of Pokhara since last night, he said.

He, however, point out that with the increasing number of COV- ID-positive cases, the streets will again be deserted after the festivities die down. "The government has again started issuing alerts, but we believe businesses should be allowed to operate by following the health safety protocols instead of enforcing a lockdown like earlier."

Pokhara hotels have witnessed about 15 per cent occupancy during the New Year. According to Tulachan, about 650 hotels operating on the lakeside in Pokhara are giving discounts of up to 25 per cent.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism activities have been increasing in Nagarkot recently, especially during the weekends and festivals. According to Nagarkot Tourism Development Committee, rooms in various hotels in Nagarkot are offering 10 to 15 per cent discount according to their category and capacity. Owing to its close proximity to the capital city, Nagarkot welcomed a large number of tourists from the valley for the New Year.

According to the Regional Hotel Association Dhulikhel, most of the hotels in Dhulikhel have been fully booked since the last two days. Almost all the 50 hotels have seen 100 per cent occupancy.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.