Kathmandu, February 7:
A couple of tourists from UK travelling around the city along with an official of an adventure travel company looked at the serpentine queues outside petrol pumps and remarked, â€œHow will you survive so many crises at a time: First electricity, then the Terai turmoil and now fuel?â€
These tourists may have been voicing concerns of not just foreign tourists but even average citizens of the country.
Ironically, even as Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) along with key tourism entrepreneurs of the country have been making an all out effort to hardsell Nepal in the last few months as a safe destination to travellers at international travel marts and tourism fairs, the situation back home keeps failing them.
Even now, NTB along with Nepal Association of Travel and Tour Agents (NATTA) just wrapped up an exercise of wooing Spanish tourists at one of the biggest travel exhibitions in Europe, the FITUR Fair 2007, in Madrid on February 4.
â€œThe Terai unrest, then the fuel crisis have certainly spread a negative image of the country internationally at a time when we are striving hard to revive tourism,â€ laments Dhrub Narayan Shrestha, president of NATTA.
Disturbances in any part of Nepal is usually gets viewed as the entire country becoming unsafe for travel by foreign tourists. â€œCancellations have beginning to pour in, though slowly for now but might increase with every passing day of this crisis,â€ fears Shrestha.
Satish Neupane, general manager of Himalayan Expedition, an adventure travel company, agrees, â€œEven though Chitwan has remained free from any disturbance so far, tourists are beginning to rework their itinerary of going there as Chitwan falls in the Terai region.â€
Incidentally, the impact of the Terai unrest and the ensuing fuel scarcity is only beginning to hit tourism because this happens to be a lean season. But with the peak season approaching in March, tourism entrepreneurs are on tenterhooks. â€œThe situation needs to improve by February end or cancellations will begin pouring in from Indian as well as all other foreign tourists,â€ points out Neupane.
Although hotel bookings have not begun to register a major decline, hoteliers claim last minute
bookings or, what they call, Day After Bookings have significantly dipped.
â€œThe number of queries that we used to receive for corporate business has gone down in the last 20 days,â€ says Amir Pradhan, front office manager, Everest Hotel. The hotel, he claims has been forced to put on hold the programmes of some tourist groups who wanted to come by surface transport from Bangladesh through Kakarvitta (the nearest entry point from there). â€œWe arrived at this decision because we are not just selling our hotel but trying to sell Nepal as a safe country to tourists,â€ he adds.
Nevertheless, Tek Bahadur Dangi, NTBâ€™s CEO remains unfazed by the current crises and the spreading negative image, â€œAnyways we donâ€™t have many tourists going down to the Terai. It is only tourists travelling by land who have been affected till now. Pokhara, Chitwan, Langtang and other trekking destinations remain safe from any disturbance.â€
Dangi derives solace from the fact that the government has taken the initiative to resolve the issue at the earliest.