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Nepal tourism sector faces loss of $282m due to COVID-19

Xinhua . Kathmandu | Published: 23:29, Jul 04,2020

 
 

A file photo shows tourists taking part in a paragliding session overlooking Pokhara in Nepal. — AFP photo

Nepal’s tourism industry is estimated to lose 34 billion Nepali rupees ($282 million) since the Nepali government enforced lockdown in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, according to Nepal’s ministry of culture, tourism and civil aviation.

‘The loss is expected to cross 40 billion Nepali Rupees (332 million U.S. dollar) until July 21, extended deadline of lockdown,’ states a report on ministry’s activities during the period from March 24 to June 29, which the ministry unveiled on Friday.

A task force formed by the Nepal Tourism Board, main tourism promotion body of Nepal and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the aviation sector regulator, has estimated the loss of 10 billion Nepali Rupees ($83 million) each month during the lockdown in the hospitality sector such as hotels, travels and aviation.

Although the Nepali government on June 10 relaxed lockdown, allowing most of the economic activities to operate, the tourism sector, particularly hotels and airlines sectors have not been allowed to reopen. Nepal’s cabinet also decided on Monday to continue suspension of domestic and international flights till July 21.

As the tourism sector faces huge losses, a delegation of Nepali tourism entrepreneurs on Friday submitted a memorandum to Nepal’s tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai demanding that the tourism sector be reopened too.

A press statement issued by the ministry on Friday said that the tourism entrepreneurs asked the Nepali government to allow the airlines to operate the scheduled domestic and international flights on condition that certain health protocols are complied. Currently, Nepali government has been allowing just chartered flights for humanitarian purposes and taking delivery of medical goods.

The tourism entrepreneurs also demanded that the Nepali government should allow operating tourist vehicles, remove garbage from the mountains and carry out infrastructure development in tourism destinations in the mountain regions where there is not thick settlement.

Binayak Shah, first vice-president of the Hotel Association of Nepal, a grouping of hotels in Nepal, told Xinhua on Friday that they asked the government to reopen the hotels and airline sectors as they are struggling to pay staff amid continued closure.

‘At least we want certainty when these sectors are reopened so that we can plan for the future,’ he said. ‘We are getting few inquiries for hotel booking for the autumn season from the tourists who are attracted to come here for trekking and mountaineering.’

According to him, although the Nepali government decided to use certain hotels as quarantine centres for Nepalis brought home from abroad, very few hotels are occupied currently.

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