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Conflict-time campaign resurrected to revive Pokhara

Krishnamani Baral

Krishnamani Baral

Conflict-time campaign resurrected to revive Pokhara

Photo: Province 2 Minister of State for Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Suresh Kumar Mandal speaking at an interaction in Birgunj held under the Jaun Hai Pokhara campaign

Under normal circumstances, the occupancy rate of hotels in Pokhara used to be around 75 to 80 percent in October-November. As the Annapurna trekking area starts getting cold after that, the number of foreign tourists coming for trekking gradually decreases from that time, and occupancy drops to 50-60 percent.

Of 80 percent occupancy, domestic tourists made up 30 percent and foreign tourists 50 percent, informs Bikal Tulachan, hotelier, and president of Paschimanchal Hotel Association Pokhara (PHAP). During the three days of Restaurant and Bar Association Nepal Pokhara’s annual Lakeside Road Festival starting on the first day of the English New Year, hotels in Pokhara were over 90 percent full.

That was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Nepal. When the lockdowns started, Nepal's tourism hit its nadir in April 2020. Now, even as trade and commerce slowly resume, the tourism industry has not been able to hit its stride. The reason? There are currently next to no foreign tourists in Nepal right now.

The arrival of foreign tourists has not resumed even after the resumption of international and domestic flights, even as the Indian border remains closed for tourists who want to enter the country by land. Thus, with the intent of attracting domestic tourists to Pokhara, PHAP is conducting a campaign under the slogan “Jaaun Hai Pokhara” (Lets go to Pokhara) in major Tarai cities including Parsa, Birgunj, Janakpur, Biratnagar and Chitwan.

According to Bharat Parajuli, the coordinator of the team currently travelling to various cities on promotion activities, they have interacted with provincial governments, media and tourism professionals with the goal of promoting tourism in Pokhara. Association president Tulachan informs that hotels in Pokhara have been giving up to 50 percent discount to attract tourists. There is also a 50 percent discount on paragliding.

There are over 750 hotels of different sizes in Pokhara, of which around 400 are affiliated to the hotel association. These hotels have around 30,000 well-kept beds, with total investment in hotels crossing Rs 200 billion. Similarly, there has been massive investments in restaurants, adventure sports, paragliding, ultralight bungee jumping, zipline, tourist buses and other fun-filled activities in tourist areas.

Biplav Poudel, former president of the Jaaun Hai Pokhara Campaign and executive member of NTB informs of how the campaign that started 18 years ago at the height of the Maoist conflict is now being resurrected with the goal of mitigating the damages caused by the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

In a program hosted this week in Birgunj as part of the campaign, Province No. 2 Minister of State for Industry, Tourism, Forests and Environment Suresh Kumar Mandal expressed his full support for the campaign and said he would play his part to make it a success.