By Ek Raj Giri Pokhara, Oct. 21: Pokhara’s Fewa Lake was packed with domestic tourists on Tuesday. On the second last day of Dashain, scores of people were gathered to visit the Barahi Temple located in the middle of the lake. The boat operators were busy from morning to evening and were extremely happy to get work after a gap of nearly two years.
Tourism entrepreneurs of the city say that Dashain has brought a large number of domestic visitors to Pokhara, bringing relief to a sector that has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their assertion is supported by the crowd of people seen at places like the Fewa Lake, Begnas Lake, Mahendra Cave, Gupteshwor Cave, Davis Falls, World Peace Stupa, Bindyabasini, Kedareshwor Mahadev, Akala Devi, Sarangkot, Kahun Danda, Pumdikot and Hudikot.
Gopi Bahadur Bhattarai, chairman of the Pokhara Tourism Council, said that this Dashain instilled hope in the tourism businesses of Pokhara. “The past week has shown good signs and hopefully, we will now see a revival,” he said. Laxman Subedi, president of the Western Regional Hotel Association, Pokhara, said that the number of tourists visiting the city had increased in recent days due to the closure of schools and offices for the Dashain festival, declining cases of COVID-19 and the lifting of travel restrictions.
According to Bishwo Darshan Parajuli, manager of the Lakeside-based Hotel Sadan, 35 per cent of the rooms in his hotel were booked. This may not seem like much but Parajuli insisted that this was a great improvement from the pre-Dashain situation when his hotel was almost totally empty. There are about 1,000 hotels, including 16 star hotels, in Pokhara having an investment of Rs. 375 billion. The occupancy of big hotels stands at 50 per cent and the occupancy of small hotels is 25 per cent, Subedi informed.
As per the data provided to The Rising Nepal, 85 per cent of tourists presently in Pokhara are domestic, 10 per cent are Indians and five per cent are of other nationalities. The four months of September, October, November and December are when most tourists visit the city of lakes. However, last year, hardly anyone came due to the pandemic.
This year, though, the gap left by foreign travellers has been filled by domestic visitors, said Sushil Raj Poudel, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Western Regional Association.