Having faced the worst situation in its history, the tourism industry in Nepal was showing some signs of revival gradually for some months. With an increase in the movement of people, the aviation and the hospitality sectors, too, were bouncing back. Several international mountaineering expeditions have now been here in the country to attempt different peaks, including Sagarmatha, for this spring. Following the enforcement of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown in late March last year, the sensitive tourism business had come to a grinding halt. Tens of thousands of people had lost their jobs. However, few of them have resumed their work with the arrival of hundreds of climbers and other adventurers. Domestic tourism also began recording a robust recovery with popular destinations like Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini and Muktinath seeing an influx of Nepali travellers. The steadily improving scenario has created much hope and optimism among travel trade entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.
There is no doubt that tourism was one of the key sectors to contribute to the national economy until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The multifaceted sector would generate a lot of jobs and foreign currencies. Although we have no satellite accounting system in place so as to know about the exact contribution of the tourism industry to the gross domestic product (GDP), it has been playing a vital role in the national economy. As per the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP stood at 7.9 per cent in 2019. However, its contribution must have fallen significantly in 2020 when Nepal witnessed an unprecedented drop in international tourist arrivals owing to the pandemic. Global tourism also reeled from the existing public health crisis, with over 80 per cent plunge in tourist arrivals.
With the launch of the vaccination drive against the pandemic in Nepal in January this year and a drastic drop in COVID-19 infections, the travel trade people were quite confident that the situation would return to normal in no time. But the recent resurgence of the contagion has dampened their hope and a huge investment made in the tourism industry is now on the verge of collapse. An alarming rise in daily COVID-19 infections across the country has started creating a lot of panic among potential Nepali and foreign tourists alike. The tourism industry and the government now need to work on a special tourism recovery plan to cope with this challenging situation.
According to a news report carried by this daily on Thursday, the second wave of COVID-19 has begun hitting tourism activities in Sauraha of Chitwan. Located close to the Chitwan National Park (CNP), Sauraha is one of the major destinations for wildlife safari lovers as well as cultural tourism. Over the past couple of weeks, Sauraha has hosted a lot of tourists. It took several months for the entire area to recover its tourism. But the New Year 2078 has brought boon to this tourist hub. Most of hotels and safari businesses have almost been restored. Like many other destinations across the country, Sauraha experienced the brunt of the pandemic for months. But the pandemic’s resurgence may deal a severe blow to the tourism business which is struggling hard for full recovery. Similar might be the fate of other tourist destinations.