Pokhara being neglected: Tourism entrepreneurs

Rup Narayan Dhakal

Pokhara, January 24:

Tourism entrepreneurs of Pokhara have complained that government is favouring Kathmandu-based operators when it comes to awarding the status of ‘sick industry’.

Sundar Kumar Shrestha, former president, Regional Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Pokhara said though the city was the country’s second tourist destination, it is being completely neglected in terms of receiving government relief packages. He pointed out that there were only a few entrepreneurs in Pokhara who were taking advantage of subsidies on interest rateson loans taken by hoteliers. The government had formulated the system some two years ago. The government had provided a facility of 5.5 per cent relief on interest rate to 10 local hotels till a few months ago. The hotels included Sangrila, Bluebird, Snowland, Kantipur, Barahi, Hungry Eye and Basecamp Hotel.

Over 30 hotels had sought for the facility. But, all hotels are now paying 12 to 13 per cent of interest. Concerned entrepreneurs said the bank took over Hotel Chautari of New Road, Pokhara few weeks ago when the hotel could not pay the interest on time. The owner of Hotel Kantipur, Shrestha demanded ‘ailing industry loan’ and to be allowed to continue the facility being provided by the Nepal Rastra Bank. The banking sector is thriving while tourism sector is in decline. Despite this, the government and banks are trying everything to wipe out tourism enterprises, Shrestha said. “Hotels are being victimised by the central bank”, he claimed. HAN figures show that out of Rs 15 to Rs 20 billion invested in tourism sector in Pokhara, little over three billion rupees is in bank loan. Present chairman of HAN, Pokhara, Hari Prasad Gurung called on the government to ensure uninterrupted flow of capital and also a relief on electricity tariff.

Former chairman, Shrestha lamented the deprivation of Pokhara entrepreneurs duet to constant bandhs, strikes and embargos. The Maoists called for Kaski bandh on January 23 and 24. A group of 24 Dutch tourists cancelled their booking in Kantipur hotel because of that bandh, Shrestha informed.

HAN stated that the tourism industry, that was employing 4,000 to 5,000 people directly, was the employer of only 1,700 persons at present. It is said that 40 per cent skilled hotel workforce has left for foreign countries while 25 per cent of the workforce has been displaced from the sector.

There was a sharp decline of 42 per cent in tourist arrivals in 2003 from that of 1999. In 1999, a total of 1,42,487 tourists visited Pokhara, while in 2003, it was just 82,579 visitors.