The hotels in the country - one of the hardest-hit due to the coronavirus pandemic - are facing cumulative losses to the tune of whopping Rs 1.80 billion per day.

This was revealed during the 47th annual general meeting (AGM) of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) that was held here today.

As most star-rated hotels are still partially closed and some have even shut operations, the hotel industry is struggling to recover even as economic activities in the country have resumed.

Speaking during the programme, Shreejana Rana, president of HAN, said, "The relief packages announced by the government are commendable but the fact is that it is a long and treacherous road ahead for the hotel industry to reach pre-pandemic level."

According to her, investment in the hotel industry currently stands at around Rs 150 billion, with nearly Rs 30 billion in bank loans.

She opined that the government should therefore prioritise domestic tourism for rejuvenation of the economy.

"Government should bring short- and long-term policies to promote domestic tourism," she said, adding, "Even the travel leave for civil servants announced earlier has not been implemented yet."

As the trend of travelling in Nepal has increased and domestic tourists are more willing to travel to local destinations, the government has to realise the importance of domestic tourism, she added.

Meanwhile, HAN Vice-President Binayak Shah emphasised on eco-friendly services in hotels for cost-cutting. He spoke on the need to stop using single-use plastic products to save the environment as well as for the cost management of the hotel.

Addressing the AGM, Tourism Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal said that the budget ceiling set in current fiscal year would not suffice for the coming fiscal year. Due to the pandemic, the tourism industry is facing additional challenges to recover and thus the budget ceiling should be increased, he said.

"Just yesterday, during the meeting with finance minister, we urged him to raise budget ceiling for tourism ministry," he said. Stating tourism has been most adversely affected by COVID, he emphasised on need to accord high priority to the sector during recovery efforts.

The political parties themselves have been flouting the protocols set by the government by holding protests, assemblies and organising rallies.

"Thus, there is no point in enforcing health safety protocols only in tourism sector," he added. "Thus, the government recently issued new protocols for the tourism industry, which has provided some relief to the stakeholders."

He stressed on the need for extra vigilance, however, as COVID cases have started going up again.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 3, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.