Nepal | November 28, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic sounds the death knell for Nepal’s tourism sector

Rajan Pokhrel
Share Now:

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s tourism sector has been staring at its deathbed, following the nationwide lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the start of 2020, the year in which Nepal had anticipated to receive over two million foreign tourists, the global pandemic has flung the country’s tourism sector into chaos, bringing all the tourism activities to a grinding halt.

The coronavirus crisis has not only led to the cancellation of the much-touted Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign but it has also injected an unprecedented amount of uncertainty into the country’s tourism-based economy, as the business fraternity doesn’t know whether the tourism activities will resume this year.

“We don’t know how to survive if the tourism businesses don’t resume anytime soon,” the tourism entrepreneurs said.

The Hotel Association of Nepal has already decided to close all tourist standard hotels across the country till mid-November, by paying 12.5 per cent of staff’s basic monthly salary. The decision has resulted in closure of nearly 1,300 star and tourist standard hotels, with bed capacity of over 41,000 per day, across the country.

According to HAN, the country’s hotel sector is losing nearly Rs 1.80 billion monthly after the coronavirus crisis brought the business to a sudden halt.

“We have already had no business at all for almost two months. Now, we are compelled to shut all hotels till mid-November as there was no business due to halted tourist mobility to combat the spread of coronavirus,” Shreejana Rana, president of HAN, said.

From the Kathmandu’s busiest tourist hub Thamel to the scenic lake city of Pokhara, from one of the popular trail circuits in Annapurna to the Mount Everest region, or from Pashupatinath to Lumbini, no one knows whether the world visitors will return this year. Also, the stakeholders from Chitwan’s national park area to Bardiya’s wildlife zone don’t know how to survive if they don’t receive visitors.

“The crisis is deepening and set to get even worse,” Santa Bir Lama, President of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said. The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted the country’s travel, trekking and mountaineering sectors. More than 3,500 travel and 2,600 trekking agencies across the country have already closed their operation due to the nationwide lockdown, according to Lama.

Nepal is renowned for adventure tourism due to its prominent peaks while mountaineering is one of the major components of the tourism industry. The spring season (March-May) is the time when maximum mountaineering activities take place in the country. “But, all adventure activities have been suspended this time.”

There are thousands of people who depend on the money spent by foreign tourists in Nepal. Especially, the closure of the mountains including Mt Everest and tour and trekking activities has made nearly half a million people jobless in the mountaineering community. It has created a situation in which the country will be losing the revenue equivalent to nearly Rs 600 million annually from mountaineering, according to Lama.

“It seems that there will be no trekking and mountaineering activities in the upcoming autumn or winter season and thousands of people, who depend on tourism activities and products, will be unable to make their daily ends meet,” Lama further said.

Once the situation becomes normal, the government should immediately reutilise the budget allocated for VNY 2020 and Nepal Tourism Board to boost up domestic tourism in the country, according to operators. “Besides, the government should also mobilise all trekking and mountaineering workforce to clean up mountains and renovate the trekking and hiking trails across the country,” Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, Managing Director at Seven Summit Treks, said.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism sector pumped around 240 billion rupees into the Nepal’s economy and supported over 1 million jobs. The central bank data also reveals that total foreign currency exchange (less return) for 2018 stood at around US$ 617,263 thousand.

Tourism, which accounts for nearly eight percent of Nepal’s GDP, is vital to national economies. The WTTC report also stated that travel and tourism investment in Nepal last year was 16.5 billion rupees – three percent of the total investment.

In 2019, Nepal witnessed a total inflow of more than 1.17 million foreign tourists via air and land routes while the average length of stay of a tourist in Nepal was recorded at 13 days with per day expenditure at US$ 44.

According to the World Tourism Organisation – UNWTO, the world will see a decline in international tourism receipts between USD 300 to 450 billion in 2020, almost one third of USD 1.5 trillion generated in 2019, with 96 percent of worldwide destinations having travel restrictions.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation estimates that there will be an overall reduction of international passengers ranging from 44 percent to 80 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. If there is no immediate relief package, Nepali airlines could also be bankrupt anytime soon because of the COVID-19 crisis, an airlines operator reacted.

The government should immediately bring the stimulus package to save Nepal’s tourism industry, NMA President Lama demanded, adding that they have been lobbying with the government for relief and bailout packages of Rs 20 billion for the tourism industry. “However, this crisis is going to end sooner or later and all stakeholders also need to put more effort to bring tourists into Nepal than before.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

KP Sharma Oli, Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Indian foreign secy stresses on close ties between India, Nepal

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who arrived here today on a two-day visit, held a bilateral meeting with his Nepali counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal. They reviewed several aspects of Nepal-India relations covering trade, transit, connectivity, infrastru Read More...

Ministry of Home Affairs

Banking channel mandatory for distribution of social security allowance

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 The Government of Nepal has made it mandatory for all 753 local levels to distribute social security allowance to beneficiaries through banking channel. A notice recently published by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Nepal Gazette said the provision was stipulated in Read More...

UN condemns girl’s rape, murder

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 The UN in Nepal has strongly condemned the rape and killing of a six-year-old girl in Bardibas which was reported in the media. “We urge the relevant authorities to urgently follow due process and ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable,” read a press stateme Read More...

Subway construction in Kalanki

Council of trade unions slams employers

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 The Council affiliated to the International Trade Union Federation has called for including workers of the informal and self-employed sectors in the social security scheme. In a joint statement, the three large trade unions of the country – General Federation of Trade Read More...

‘Nepal will graduate to developing country soon

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli stressed the need to advance the social security scheme with coordination, collaboration and cooperation among the three tiers of government. Addressing a programme organised by the Social Security Fund on the occasion of the Third Social Sec Read More...

Private sector’s role in reviving tourism stressed

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 The private sector needs to unite and work together for rehabilitation and revival of the tourism sector that has been hard-hit by COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers at an interaction organised by Nepal Tourism Board to promote tourism highlighted this. They further stressed th Read More...

Cultural sites to be rebuilt in two years

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai claimed all the earthquake-damaged cultural and religious heritages would be reconstructed within two years. Inaugurating the construction of Narayan Chatubyuha temple’s entrance gate on the premise Read More...

Nepse at new high, but analysts advise caution

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26 The Nepal Stock Exchange created a fresh record today, as the benchmark index advanced by 18.43 points to rest at an all-time high of 1,893.24 points. Prior to this, the all-time record of Nepse was 1,881.45 in 2018. While the Nepse index had surged as high as 1,926.92 poin Read More...