Tourism entrepreneurs hope for gradual revival of business
17 Sep, 2020
By Modnath Dhakal Kathmandu, Sept. 17: With the announcement of the resumption of public transportation and hospitality sectors including hotels and air service from 17 September, the tourism sector is developing confidence of the business revival. Had it been the normal times, this time around the public bus services would have announced the opening of the tickets for the Dashain travel, tours and travel companies would have launched attractive inbound and outbound trip packages, traders would have filled up their shops with new products. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered the hopes of the businesses, and tourism bore the biggest brunt. The near complete shutdown of the business in hospitality and tourism for the past six months has not only shattered the businesses across the country but also the confidence of the entrepreneurs and jobs of the workers in the lucrative sector. Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa recently laid off about 400 staffers. The workers launched a protest against the hotel management since Tuesday. Major tourism hubs like Thamel in Kathmandu, Lake Side in Pokhara and Sauraha in Chitwan are deserted and there were reports that at least 25 per cent hoteliers and restaurateurs have left the business amidst the coronavirus uncertainty. The situation is graver than what is being reported in the media, said the entrepreneurs. “About 1.2 million workers are directly or indirectly affected by the business shutdown. Total jobs affected directly are about 300,000,” said Basanta Raj Mishra, Chairman of Nepal Association of Tour Operators and Chairman of Nepal PATA Chapter. However, the opening of the sector would certainly help the entrepreneurs and the workers, Mishra said to The Rising Nepal. “We had long been urging the government to allow the tourism and hospitality sector run with health safety protocols. Resumption of transport and domestic flight has given us the much needed initial hopes,” he said. All the entrepreneurs of the sector have welcomed the government decision and asked the government to bring in the foreign tourists targeting this season. They have requested the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to allow the tourists visit Nepal and install PCR test machines at the Tribhuvan International Airport. “If the government is not ready to bear the cost, we are ready to pay the cost of the PCR test,” said Khum Bahadur Subedi, President of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal. Entrepreneurs think that if the tourists were allowed to enter the country with the latest PCR test conducted within a couple of days before boarding the plane, it would be safe. Earlier, in a meeting with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) had urged her to help open the tourism sector, keep the tourists in quarantine for 3 days, conduct the PCR test and allow them to move freely in the country. Subedi said that the government decision had not only instilled hopes in the entrepreneurs but also increased inquiries from the tourists abroad. “Tourists have started inquiring about the opening of the flights and resumption of tourism services. With the growing number of tourists, the sector will revive gradually and the jobs will be restored,” he said. Mishra said that there is no alternative to ‘living with corona’. However, he said that the health safety protocols must be strictly adhered to by the businesses as well as the clients. According to him, people want to go to new places even during the coronavirus crisis. “Vacation is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said. Tourism is the worst hit sector in the country with expected losses amounting to more than Rs. 50 billion. The International Labour Organisation in its recent study said that three-quarters of workers in the tourism sector were in informal jobs, leaving them with no protection and no income as the sector has ground to a halt. Likewise, UNDP’s rapid assessment of socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Nepal concluded that given the international travel restrictions and fall in discretionary disposable incomes worldwide, tourism receipts in Nepal are projected to decline by 60 per cent in 2020 resulting in a loss of foreign currency earnings worth US$400 million. The pandemic has already wrecked the Visit Nepal Year 2020.