22 per cent hotel bookings cancelled due to strikes

Around 22 per cent of hotel bookings have been cancelled, not many international visitors have expressed interest to visit Nepal during one of the peak tourist seasons beginning March and investor confidence has once again taken a dip.

The common denominator in these three incidents is bandh and protest programmes organised by political parties and groups, which hold reservations on the content of the new constitution proposed by the ruling parties.

These parties and groups are hell bent on exerting pressure on the ruling coalition, as the January 22 deadline for promulgation of the new constitution is fast approaching.

“It is natural for political parties and groups to express their concerns when an important document like constitution is being drafted. But this should not mean people have given them the mandate to shut down everything and paralyse businesses and normal life,” Senior Vice-president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Pashupati Murarka said, adding, “Protest organisers should keep in mind that their acts have once again created uncertainty and eroded investor confidence, which was gradually building.”

Investors were gradually becoming upbeat about business prospects here following signing of crucial deals on energy.

In recent days, Nepal has signed power trade agreement with India, which allows the government to import any quantum of electricity to cut loadshedding hours and paves the way for project developers here to sell surplus electricity in India. Also, deals on construction of two hydroelectric projects worth over Rs 200 billion were recently sealed and talks on development of 5,600-megawatt Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which was stalled for a decade, have resumed.

But industrialists like Murarka feel that the achievements made so far have been virtually negated by announcements of protest programmes.

“Investors who were pinning their hopes on further improvement in country’s business climate are not happy. It will take at least a year to rebuild this confidence,” Murarka said, requesting political parties and different groups not to surprise investors, as they are risk-averse.

Protest programmes like bandh are frowned upon, as they force industries and educational institutions to remain closed, keep vehicles off the road and badly affect labourers who need to work daily to make ends meet.

Also, foreign tourists, who bring in dollars, tend to remove Nepal from the list of destinations that they would like to visit, reducing the country’s foreign income.

Already, 20-22 per cent of the hotel bookings have been cancelled, Hotel Association of Nepal CEO Prabesh Aryal told THT. Generally, Americans and Europeans visit the country at this time of the year.

Worse, the recent protest programmes are expected to affect tourist arrivals in March, when peak tourist season begins.

“Foreign travellers, who wish to visit Nepal from March onwards, generally start inquiring about travel packages at this time of the year. But the number of such inquiries has dropped this time, because many have started fearing the protests would prolong,” First Vice-president of the Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents, Shambhu Raj Pathak, said. “This is not a good sign for the tourism sector, which was gradually recovering following decade-long conflict.”

Because of such losses, the central bank has put the cost of bandh at around Rs 1.79 billion per day.

Source: THT