Series of Maoist bandhs hits tourism sector

Rup Narayan Dhakal

Pokhara, June 3:

The transportation strike and Maoists bandhs called on June 1, 2 and 3 has hindered travel plans of tourists in the district. In addition to it, they also had to face the nuisance of having to walk. Tourism entrepreneurs said that tourists who came on their own, were the hardest hit. Tika Ram Sapkota, chairman of Trekking Association of Nepal (TAN) West, said that tourists who come privately are not aware about the latest situation in the country. As a result, they have to face many problems. Those who come by packages and groups come only after thorough research. Sapkota said that tourists who had gone for Annapurna Trekking area were also directly influenced by the bandh.

According to Sapkota, March, April and May months are taken as end months for tourism and as such, tourists are lesser in number. Maheshwor Acharya, receptionist at Hotel Crystal at Lakeside, said that these months are preferred by Indian tourists. Some 72 tourists stayed in the hotel on Tuesday, most whom were Indians. Since it is very hot in India, they come here to cool off and spend their summer vacation. But due to bandhs, a lot of bookings have been cancelled. Most Indian tourists were seen at Lakeside, enjoying boat rides on Phewa Lake on Wednesday, while some took time off to cycle or walk. Acharya said that the inflow of European tourists is almost nil. Sapkota also said that in addition to the end of season, the absurd strikes, bandhs and bomb blasts even in urban areas, have driven tourists away. He added that tourists who originally planned to vacation here have altered their plan to go to African countries.

Bed Prakash Upadhyaya, chief of Tourism Office at Pokhara, said that the bandhs and strikes have given unnecessary headaches to tourists travelling to the country. He suggested that vehicles carrying tourists must be allowed to ply freely during bandhs. Most hotels in the district escorted their guests on taxis from the airport, while some walked for 45 minutes from the airport to Lakeside. The tourism sector in the district, which had been bleeding due to low tourist arrivals, had heaved a sigh or relief after the ceasefire and lately, some increase in tourist inflow were also seen. As compared to 2002 AD, there was 21.33 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in 2003 AD. According to the Tourism Office of Pokhara, a total of 82,579 tourists visited the valley in 2003.