Pokhara, December 20:

Pokhara’s tourism entrepreneurs’ worst fears have come true. The Maoists have called a Nepal bandh on the very first day of 2007.

The entrepreneurs, who were rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of a bumper windfall on New Year’s day, are crestfallen at the Maoists’ bandh call.

The word is out in Pokhara’s markets that, thanks to the bandh, both the domestic and foreign tourists will be staying away. The Maoists have declared a Nepal bandh on December 31 and January 1.

Pokhara’s Restaurant and Bar Association (REBAN) for the last eight years has also continued to celebrate Street Festival on the occasion of New Year. President of the REBAN, Srilal Subedi, while stating that the Maoists’ announcement of bandh has shocked tourism entrepreneurs here, urged the Maoists to withdraw the bandh.

“We call upon everyone to understand that in the entire year, we pin high hopes on those two days,” Subedi lamented.

“Even in the critical period in the past, two-and-a-half lakh tourists had visited Pokhara festival and we plan to attract four lakh tourists this year,” he said.

There is a lot for tourists to visit here as they can celebrate Christmas, New Year and the Street Festival at one go, he added.

Laxmi Bahadur Bhattarai, president of regional HAN, said the Maoists’ sudden bandh announcement was a setback to tourism entrepreneurs as most hotels had already received bookings for the New Year.