KATHMANDU: Had Covid-19 not been prevalent, people from around the world would have visited Bandipur, also known as ‘Queen of Hills’ in Tanahun district, during the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign.
Nestled in the foothills, Bandipur is one of the oldest settlements of ethic Newari community. Tourists visiting there would not only enjoy the Newari heritage but also witness captivating views of snow-covered Himalayan ranges.
Bandipur offers wide range of activities to the visitors including paragliding, hiking, and mesmerising sight-seeing of mountain ranges. Likewise, there are homestay services, traditional ethnic settlements of various castes, Siddha Gufa – probably one of the biggest natural caves in the South Asia region, Thanimai Temple, gumba, among others.
The ongoing pandemic not only adversely affected human lives but also caused severe damage in the overall economy of the country, mostly affecting the hospitality sector, due to government imposed restrictions worldwide.
In coordination with the hoteliers, Bandipur Toursim Development Committee (BTDC) has decided to provide festive offers including special packages with discount to attract internal tourists to sustain hospitality industry during this crisis, said Chairperson Kishan Pradhan.
He further informed that the visitors would be given festive discount up to 25 per cent depending upon the category of the hotels in the area.
Dil Kumari Rana, Chairperson of the Bandipur Homestay Association said, they have not offered their services to customers keeping in mind the safety factor. “However, we have decided to offer our services in a package — Rs 700 per person including breakfast along with non-veg dinner and accommodation — for those with negative PCR report.” She also said that guests would be provided with free plain meals on their departure day.
“With the support of local government, we have been carrying out infrastructure development works in the area,” informed former BTDC chairperson Baisa Gurung.
However, the local government has failed to manage waste effectively. Air pollution is also prevalent and tourists have to wear face masks to negate the effects of pollution in the area.
Pawan Shrestha, BBA student at Morgan International and Engineering College in Kathmandu, who visited Bandipur on a college tour prior to the pandemic said the place offers both natural and cultural beauty to the visitors. Keeping in mind the safety of the visitors — both domestic and international tourists — who visit Siddha Gufa, the Siddha Cave Management Committee (SCMC) should provide better safety gears, Shrestha lamented.
“We are preparing to add more torch lights, helmets and other safety gears to our visitors,” informed SCMC official Lal Kumar Shrestha.
Visitors can reach Siddha Gufa from Prithvi Highway or hike down though the jungle trail from Bandipur for two hours before witnessing the naturally formed sculptures and experiencing closeness to the earth.
Sweta Karki, who was also on the same college tour said, “Bandipur is worth a visit for all types of tourists”.
Referring to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Kedar Bahadur Adhikari who recently retired from the position of secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said, Nepal’s hospitality sector should not fully depend on international tourists as it can crumble at any crisis situation. Therefore, domestic tourism should be institutionalised for the sustainability of hospitality sector.
He further said, the government should provide incentives and give force leave to its staff to visit touristic destinations across Nepal, encourage private sectors, educational institutions to organise excursion tours, AGM’s in hotels and resorts to keep the economic activities rolling.
“Private sector including star hotels and aviation industry should come up with various packages to attract potential domestic travellers to boost the tourism sector,” Adhikari shared.
Bandipur is 148 kilometres north-west from Kathmandu and eight kilometres from Prithvi Highway in Tanahun district. It would be a perfect gateway for revellers looking to enjoy their festive seasons in and round Bandipur.
Some glimpses in and around Bandipur (Photos by Mausam Shah Nepali/THT)
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