By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, Feb. 23: The government has not heard the cries of pain bellowed out by the tourism entrepreneurs. This was the message conveyed by 36 tourism-related organisations and associations at a press conference on Monday. With tourism still operating in the red because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials from these various organisations complained that the government had ignored their pleas and advice to facilitate the arrival of foreign tourists and help the field recover. “We have now received the vaccine and the overall situation with the contagion has somewhat improved. So, we feel that the safety protocol and the quarantine rules need not be as strict as before. We have forwarded various suggestions on how the rules can be amended and how we can bring in visitors while still maintaining safety but they have gone unheard,” shared Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). Achyut Guragain, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travels Agents (NATTA), presented the demands raised by the tourism entrepreneurs which include an end to the mandatory five-day quarantine provision for foreign tourists who have a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) report, resumption of online and on-arrival visa services, and proper testing arrangement at the Tribhuvan International Airport or designation of a specific health institution for COVID-19 tests. They have also demanded for commencement of international flights which have still not opened, making it compulsory for tourists to hire guides and helpers from legally registered companies while visiting various destinations, allowance of travel from the India and China borders with proper monitoring, cancellation of the need to obtain US$ 5,000 COVID-19 insurance and unhindered access to tourists who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. “The government itself organises mass gatherings without adoption of safety measures but then stops tourists who follow all the World Health Organisation (WHO) mandated precautions while coming to Nepal. How does that make sense with regard to curbing the spread of the coronavirus?,” Guragain questioned, adding, “Instead of spending money on shows of strengths and protests, had it provided that amount to the entrepreneurs, it would have gone a long way to boosting the national economy. He also said that while the government had declared relief packages and aid, it had only benefitted those with political
connections.“We are tired of pleading, requesting and begging the authorities to allow us to work and are now considering stronger measures including protests if our demands are not immediately met,” he said. Subedi stressed that the businesses would miss the approaching tourism season if prompt action was not taken. Meanwhile, Yadav Prasad Koirala, secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said that the government always stood ready to help. “If the entrepreneurs come with concrete demands and proposals then we will certainly facilitate. We will definitely support the sector’s recovery and betterment.” Koirala informed that the tourism businesses had approached the ministry about the on-arrival visa and they had moved forward with resolving that issue in line with the need of the current pandemic situation.