Ramechhap, November 19
Tourism stakeholders in Manthali of Ramechhap district have urged the government to commit to operate regular flights in Manthali-Lukla route.
As the government has diverted Lukla flights from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to Manthali airport due to airport maintenance, tourism entrepreneurs in Manthali have demanded that the government secure their investment in the hospitality sector.
According to Dinesh Kumar Karki, senior vice-president of Hotel and Tourism Entrepreneurs Association – Ramechhap, the Manthali area is able to lease around 200 rooms with the capacity of accommodating around 400 people.
“Currently, we have the capacity to accommodate 400 people per night. And we are also preparing the menu rates based on the tourist standard hotels,” he said. “We do not have any tourist standard hotels at the moment but this is basically because we were not aware that Manthali could one day become a tourist hub.”
He further said that as tourist activities are increasing due to the diverted flights, tourism entrepreneurs in the area were also improving their level of services.
Meanwhile, Karki claimed that the hotels in Manthali are charging similar accommodation rates for foreigners and domestic tourists. “No city was developed overnight. But while we are improving our capacity, the government also needs to ensure continuity to the regular flights so that our investment in the hospitality sector is secured.”
He also said that Ramechhap could be one of the best destinations for domestic tourists as well. “We have several destinations that can be promoted as a tourist destination. We can promote domestic tourism if we can introduce our destinations,” he claimed.
Likewise, Shyam Thapa, president of Ramechhap Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said that entrepreneurs were unsure about making huge investments immediately due to lack of guarantee that the flights will be operated regularly.
“Earlier, the government operated Manthali airport as an alternative to TIA for Lukla flights. If things are going back to how it was, there is no point in investing to upgrade our hotels because currently we do have enough capacity to serve domestic tourists,” he said.
Thapa further claimed that the hotels in Manthali have improved compared to last year. “If the government announces that Manthali will be receiving regular flights to Lukla, entrepreneurs here are ready to upgrade quality of their service,” he said, adding, “For that we need hospitality training and other facilities from both government and private sector.”
JN Dahal, senior vice-president of RCCI, lamented that the travel agencies are also not cooperating with tourism entrepreneurs in Manthali.
“Instead of scheduling overnight stays in Manthali for tourists, travel agencies are making tourists travel during the night and then reach here in the morning so that they can just take the flight to Lukla,” he said, “Such practices should be stopped and entrepreneurs in Kathmandu have to cooperate with us so that it is a win-win situation for both parties.”
Meanwhile, the local government has committed to cooperate with the central government and the private sector to improve tourist services in Manthali area. Mayor of Manthali Municipality Ramesh Kumar Basnet said, “Manthali-Lukla flights are linked with the development of Manthali and entire Ramechhap area.”
While admitting that Manthali is not well-facilitated at the moment, he said, “But if Manthali is to be a transit hub for tourists travelling from Kathmandu to Lukla, we are capable of developing all necessary services.”
He further committed to guaranteeing security and market regulation in Manthali.
Due to the upgradation work at TIA, the government has diverted Lukla flights from TIA to Manthali airport since last spring season. Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal had declared last year that the flights in Manthali-Lukla route would be continued
A version of this article appears in print on November 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.