Monday, 30 March, 2020

Empty tourism destinations worry entrepreneurs, hotel staff


CK Khanal


Following the latest decision of the government to impose restriction on the cross border and local mobility of the people due to the fear of possible outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, the city areas, including the tourist destinations have virtually become deserted.
Many tourism businesses in tourist hubs of Thamel and Durbar Marga are closed and the number of people walking in the open streets has also declined sharply. Around 70 per cent of businesses in Thamel have been closed spontaneously when there were very few tourists in Kathmandu, said Raju Man Dangol, vice president of Thamel Tourism Development Council.
He said that only a small number of tourists, who were stranded by the decision of the government to halt all international flights and seal the border points, were in hotels. A few hotels, including some restaurants, marts and shopping centres are open in Thamel to serve the tourists, he said.
As the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) halted issuing Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card from March 20, some tourists planning to go for trekking have also been stranded in the city areas.
Similarly, other major tourism destinations of the country, including Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini, have also become empty.
Workers given leave
Owing to the reduction in business, the hotels, restaurants and other business have sent their staff members home in leave, he said.
It is said that some hotels and restaurants have fired their workers and others sent them in unpaid leave for an indefinite period. Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre (JTUCC) has condemned the practice of cutting jobs and firing workers in hotels and restaurants.
The JTUCC has urged the hotels and restaurants to discuss with the trade unions if they need to send their workers in leave. It has also urged to ensure safety of workers in the work place.
Government urged to bring emergency packages
Following the severe effect in the tourism businesses, including aviation, hotels, travel, trekking and expedition, tourism entrepreneurs have urged the government to introduce package programmes for tourism businesses.
Immediate Past President of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Nabaraj Dahal said that the government should introduce relief packages to tourism entrepreneurs immediately to support the crisis-ridden sector.
He said that the government should play a role to reschedule the bank credits of tourism entrepreneurs, give discount in interest rate and rent of rental cost of the businesses.
The entrepreneurs have also urged the government to postpone the time of paying taxes to the government.
Government thinking for possible measures
In response to the tourism entrepreneurs, Finance Minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada has said that the government was thinking about the possible measures to support he tourism sector in this difficult situation.
He said that discussion had been started to compensate temporary workers, who have lost their jobs, from various labour related welfare funds.
The government has started discussion with financial sector to offer some flexibility in paying principle and interest of credit taken by tourism entrepreneurs, he said.
Besides, the government could also postpone the time of paying taxes of businesses, he added.

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