Fifteen new paragliding companies have received permission to start services in Pokhara in the last three months. With the increase in the number of Chinese tourist who go for paragliding, tourism entrepreneurs have been increasingly investing in paragliding.
According to Sobhit Baniya, vice president of Nepal Air Sports Association, from mid-January, 15 new companies has received licenses while 20 companies are in the pipeline. With the addition of these companies, the number of companies operating paragliding service in Pokhara has reached 35.
Som Thapa, president of Pokhara Tourism Council, says that more entrepreneurs have invested in paragliding as 90 percent of the Chinese tourists go for paragliding. “As the number of Chinese tourists is increasing, the number of paragliding companies is also increasing.”
Even as the government is handing permits to new companies, the airspace in Pokhara is already crowded for the existing ones.
As Sarangkot — the most popular destination for paragliding jump offs in Pokhara — is already crowded, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has assigned Toripani and Mandredhunga as the take-off sites for the new companies. Toripani lies 15 minutes away from Sarangkot while Mandredhunga is 15 minutes away from Toripani.
The ministry has designated Chankhapur as the landing site for companies operating from Toripani and Pame as the landing site for those operating from Mandredhunga.
“The government has provided licenses to new companies without carrying put any study. Though everyone has the right to operate a paragliding business, the crowd has increased the probability of accidents,” Nepal Air Sports Association’s Baniya says.
During the peak seasons — September-to-November and March-to-May — 350 flights are conducted a day.
The paragliding companies have to invest at least Rs 5 million. With the addition of 15 new companies, around Rs 100 million has been invested in paragliding in Pokhara.
Companies are now facing a scarcity in pilots as only 40 pilots are eligible to operate paragliders.
“As the government has not given licenses for Nepali pilots, the companies are facing lack of skilled pilots,” Baniya says.
Prem Subedi, operator of Lakeside Paragliding, says that he has invested Rs 10 million in paragliding as the demand is high among Chinese tourists whose numbers are also increasing.
Govt to take action against those ‘hiding accidents’
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has said that it will take action against those hiding the occurrence of accidents.
“Companies mostly do not inform us about accidents saying that it will spread a negative message about paragliding. Hence we will carry out inspections and if any company is found to have hidden any accident, we will take action against them,” Dipak Baral, the CAAN chief in Pokhara, said, adding that CAAN is discussing on the nature of action to be taken.
To carry out an inspection, a committee comprising representatives of the local administration, police and entrepreneurs and headed by chief of CAAN in Pokhara has been formed.