Business in Pokhara has come to a standstill for the last two years due to the Corona disaster. As soon as the business came to a standstill, the workers in this sector became unemployed. As the first wave of Corona subsided last year, the second wave of epidemics has dashed the hopes of Pokhara’s tourism entrepreneurs.
In collaboration with the Nepal Tourism Board, the tourism-related organizations had launched promotional activities with the objective of making domestic tourism operational. In that course, from Mardi Himal trek to Dhampus Peak as well as promotion programs were completed at various places in the state from Dhorpatan to Nawalpur. After the second wave of Corona, all these activities have come to a standstill and tourism is still deserted.
In order to revive tourism, tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara have demanded the federal government to ensure vaccination. Led by the Pokhara Tourism Council, the Chief Minister of the state has recently met the concerned minister and demanded immediate vaccination to make the tourism sector operational.
Chairman of the council Gopi Bahadur Bhattarai said that 5,000 vaccines against corona were urgently needed in the first phase targeting workers and businessmen including hotels and restaurants.
“Even though 20,000 vaccines are needed for tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara, we have demanded to provide 5,000 vaccines for the time being to send a good message to the tourism market,”Gopi Bahadur Bhattarai
Claiming that the Rs 1 billion business survival fund brought by the Gandaki state government last year was not accessible to most of the small and medium entrepreneurs, he said the loan schedule should be rescheduled as there was no possibility of repaying the loan installments and interest from banks and financial institutions for the next two years.
Entrepreneurs emphasize that every bank should make arrangements to invest in the tourism industry at a maximum of five percent loan concessional interest rate by addressing tourism as a priority sector in the coming fiscal year 2078/79.
Entrepreneurs who have raised their hands for investment in Pokhara’s tourism have been shocked by the series of corona havoc one after another. The snow-capped silver-coloured mountains like Annapurna, and Machhapuchre and blue water in the lake are lacking value as they are not able to attract tourists due to COVID-19. The tourism sector is still not a priority of the state and the tourism entrepreneurs who are in direct contact with the public are still not vaccinated against corona.
In the past, not only regular but also in the name of Nepal Tourism Year, Gandaki State Tourism Year, etc., tourism entrepreneurs here had built infrastructure with a huge investment with the aim of attracting a maximum number of tourists. The development of tourism-oriented infrastructure has been given continuity even at the grassroots level.
A big statue of Mahadev has been erected at Pumdikot in Pokhara Metropolitan City-22 at a time when most of the projects in the country have been affected due to Corona. With the installation of a 51-foot-tall statue of Mahadev in Pumdikot, the number of domestic tourists visiting the place has started picking up speed.
Matrika Baral, a member of Pokhara Metropolitan City-22, said that the place will become an important destination in the region in the coming days as the pressure of domestic tourists has been increasing as the lockdown has been relaxed in recent days.
Stating that it was possible to install the statue of Mahadev despite the fear of Corona, he said that it was possible to keep the statue of Mahadev as the construction work continued with the help and cooperation of everyone.
According to Chandra Kant Baral, chairman of the committee and coordinator of the construction committee, a campaign was launched for the construction of the Mahadev statue in view of the abundant tourist potential of Pumdikot. From Pumdikot, which is about 13 km away from the main market area of Pokhara, one can observe the mountain range including the Pokhara Valley.
Along with the installation of the statue in Pumdikot, an administrative building and Guru Maharaj Ashram have also been constructed. According to the master plan, the committee aims to build a peace ashram, Sumeru mountain, senior citizen meeting center and green garden in the coming days.
Similarly, Shivalila, projectors showing the life cycle of wild animals etc. will also be constructed. Similarly, Ganesh, monorail, 108 streams, five feet high Shivalinga will be installed in the Mahadev statue premises, said Baral.
The committee has stated that it was possible to keep the statue due to the continuous work of 20-25 people daily despite the corona. From here, Pokhara Bazaar, Annapurna, Machhapuchhre and other mountain ranges can be seen together. Baral said that the Corona devastation will be removed soon and there will be hope in tourism.
Statistics Related to Tourism Industry in Pokhara
According to statistics, 700 entrepreneurs are affiliated with hotels and resorts in Pokhara. The tourism entrepreneur has invested Rs 50 billion in this business while the bank has invested Rs 75 billion. 12 thousand 298 people have got employment from this business.
Similarly, 100 entrepreneurs are affiliated with restaurants and bars. Entrepreneurs have their own investment of Rs 1 billion and banks have an investment of Rs 3 billion. 159 entrepreneurs have joined the trekking agencies and the entrepreneurs have their own investment of Rs. 320 million. It has an investment of 429.76 million banks. Out of this, 1,272 people have got employment. Of the 181 entrepreneurs affiliated to travel agencies, they have their own investment of Rs. 797.55 million and Rs. 186.09 million from banks.
Entrepreneurs have invested crores of rupees in tourism-related paragliding and ultralight, trekking equipment shop, embroidery and garment shop, tourist transport business, village tourism, mountaineering etc. in Pokhara while the bank’s investment has remained the same. In Pokhara, about 21,000 people are employed in all kinds of tourism-related businesses. There is concern about how to save the manpower to be deployed in this area when the business is closed due to the Corona disaster.
“Huge investment has been made under the housing program in Pokhara as well as villages in different districts of Gandaki. The initiative has been taken to make village tourism technology friendly with the belief that the devastation of Corona will be gradually reduced and the tourism sector will flourish.”Chairman of the Village Tourism Promotion Forum (VITOF) Gandaki, Nawaraj Adhikari,
Homestay mobile app service has recently been launched with the support of the Nepal Tourism Board and Village Tourism Promotion Forum Nepal (VITOF) Gandaki with the objective of making the housing service in the state effective.
“We have launched the Homestay mobile app so that the households in the state can book online, pay their dues and understand all the households,”Nawaraj Adhikari
In the first phase, the mobile app will be operated from VITOF Gandaki and after the concerned homestay is enabled, it will be operated by them. Currently, 50 homestays can be booked through the app and details of other 254 homestays can be obtained from it. This is the first time that tourism in Pokhara has been affected in such a long time despite the catastrophic earthquake of 2072 BS, blockade since then, Turkish Aeroplane crash, Hurricane in Annapurna region, dengue, bird flu and floods.
Last year, 1.173 million foreign tourists visited Nepal in 2018, while in 2019, 1.197 million foreign tourists visited Nepal. From the beginning of 2020, tourist traffic has been affected due to the Corona disaster. About 40 percent of the tourists visiting Nepal come to Pokhara.
Some History of Pokhara Tourism
Maurice Herzog, a French national who successfully climbed Annapurna I on June 3, 1950, for the first time in the history of mountaineering, and his team stayed in Pokhara. At that time, there was no such tourist infrastructure in Pokhara. A decade later, with the arrival of ‘hippie’ tourists in Pokhara in 1960, the tourist activity here has increased. In 1966, when world hiker Eric Sipton trekked to the Annapurna base camp, he chose Pokhara as his place to stay. The development of tourism infrastructure in Pokhara, which was hampered by the arrival of hippie tourists, has been flourishing since the 1980s.
Places to visit in Pokhara
Many places like Phewa lake, Machhapuchre, Sarangkot, Vishwashanti Stupa, Kahundada, Pumdikot, Hudikot, Thulakot, Kotbhairav in Bharatpokhari are some of the tourist attractions here. Mahendra Cave, Chamere Cave, Gupteswar Cave, Seti River and Patle Chhango Pokhara are the destinations that tourists will not miss.
Apart from these places, lakes like Kamalpokhari, Vegnash, Rupa, Khaste, Dipang, Maidi and Neureni of Lekhnath region, including the Phewa lake listed in the Ramsar list, have been attracting tourists to Pokhara. Visitors visit Muktinath, a holy place of pilgrimage in the Trans-Himalayan district through Pokhara, or the surrounding places like Talabarahi, Bindhabasini, Bhadrakali, Gupteswar Mahadev and others.
“The issue of ‘branding’ of tourism in the entire Gandaki region, including Pokhara, has been given priority with the belief that the tourism sector will be operational soon despite the Corona disaster. During the branding, Pokhara, formerly known as Paradise Pokhara, is now referred to as ‘Pokhara, Pure Age Paradise’”Kashiraj Bhandari, chief of the Gandaki state office of the Nepal Tourism Board
In order to save the tourism sector, it is necessary to sustain the workers working there, so the aim is to protect them in the coming days, said Bhandari.
“We are also planning to create community-based employment-generating programs with the idea of creating employment for tourism workers for the development of housing infrastructure,” he said.
Translated from Nepali – Originally written by Basudev Poudel, RSS