Kathmandu, September 18
Tourism entrepreneurs of Thamel, a popular tourist destination of the Capital, have been facing a turbulent time due to a sharp slowdown in the arrival of tourists in the country. Reportedly, business of Thamel’s hotels and restaurants are down by 90 per cent when compared to the previous year.
As a majority of tourists from western countries have cancelled their trips to Nepal after the devastating earthquake of April 25 and powerful subsequent aftershocks, Thamel entrepreneurs have begun to focus on attracting tourists from neighbouring India and China.
With reduced number of tourists, Thamel — popular for its bustling markets, night clubs and variety of restaurants and pubs — is reportedly less lively at present.
Normally, travellers of western countries book packages in advance, and the period between September to November is the peak season for tourists from the western nations.
“As the bookings were cancelled right after the earthquake, it is difficult to bring tourists from western countries for this season,” said Ram Sharan Thapaliya, president of Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC), adding, “We have to focus more on India and China to attract tourists and thereby revive the earthquake-shattered tourism industry.”
As per the tour and travel operators, flow of tourists is expected to return to normalcy only by autumn season of 2016. “Till autumn season of 2016, we have to seek options of bringing tourists from neighbouring countries and promoting domestic tourism to sustain the industry,” said DB Limbu, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA).
Thamel, which has a historical link with the hippie culture in Nepal, and which has always been busy and crowded since the last four decades has been facing hardships due to the earthquake and Tarai-protests in the recent times. The ongoing Tarai protest has also affected the flow of tourists who come to visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.
There are 3,800 entrepreneurs in Thamel who are associated with tourism business, namely hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, trekking agencies, cargo and curio shops, among others. The tourism business in Thamel is said to have generated direct employment for around 100,000 people.
One of the first locations in the Capital to see proliferation of restaurants, pubs and other facilities offering leisure activities, Thamel has earned the name of a ‘tourist hub’, with reportedly 80 per cent of the tourists arriving into the country visiting Thamel at least once.
Rajendra Sapkota, board member of Nepal Tourism Board and tourism entrepreneur at Thamel, said that tourist-related businesses in Thamel are in a critical stage and sought the government’s support to revitalise them. He also said that Nepal Rastra Bank, on the request of tourism entrepreneurs, had issued a provision not to charge penal interest on loans borrowed by tourism-related business for three months from the given deadline. However, the banks have not properly followed it, as per him.
Meanwhile, TTDC has also proposed to develop modern toilets, lay cobblestones on Thamel roads, install CCTV camera, manage dangling wires of electricity, phones and cables and resurrect nightlife to develop it as an attractive tourist destination.
TTDC submitted its plan to Tourism Secretary Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya amidst a programme organised here today.
A version of this article appears in print on September 19, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.