KATHMANDU: The Nepalese tourist industry has been struggling to recover more than one year after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake in April 2015.
Tourism is the backbone of Nepal’s economy. After the earthquake, the industry’s recovery has been slow, and millions of people employed in the sector have been affected. Visitor numbers to the country remain below levels recorded before the quake. In the capital Kathmandu’s bustling tourist district, more locals are seen than tourists these days. Shops, restaurants, streets are waiting for the usual tourist rush that Nepal sees in the month of September which promises to bring a good tourist season.
The historic Durbar Square was heavily damaged during the earthquake that killed 900 people. Sometimes several tourists walked by with thousands of vendors vie for their attention. For tour guides, this was a busy spot but after the earthquake numbers have dwindled.
“When I was a guide some years ago, it was a very good business. I can survive very easily but now, this time, it is very difficult. It is our bad luck. Not only for me, for all people, like taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers, guides,” said Rajesh Giri, a local tour guide.
According to the Department of Immigration, Nepal received 313,512 tourists between January and June 2016. Compared to 277,992 during the same period in 2015, these figures look better. However, in the same period the year before the earthquake, Nepal received 412,461 tourists.
Sarad Pradhan from the Nepal Tourism Board said that they are now focusing on telling the world that it is safe to travel to Nepal.
“One of the most affected areas is tourism in Nepal. We lost not only the lives, but we lost the jobs of so many people who are involved in tourism. The tourist arrival dramatically dropped within the very short time. So we faced, especially Nepal’s tourism industry, a huge loss in terms of revenue, tourist arrivals, jobs, so many things,” he said.
India, China, and the United States make the top three origin countries of visitors to Nepal. The Nepalese government is now concentrating on increasing arrivals from neighboring countries, China and India.
“We are trying to pursue the Chinese and Indian tourists to come back because they are the one who can come easily to Nepal, and we have very good access to these countries also,” said Pradhan, adding the flight connections are good between both countries and Nepal.
Nepal has witnessed political instability in recent months as well, with violent protests breaking out, and this also does not help.
The government said that restoring damaged monuments will take time as conservation norms have to be observed. However, Nepal continues to offer stunning scenery and is a trekker’s delight; something officials are reminding holidaymakers. ANI