While the monsoon rain lashed the roads of Thamel in Kathmandu on Friday afternoon, Sitaram Rai stood outside his trekking accessory shop in despair. It was almost 2 pm and he had not made a single sale since early morning.
Rai’s worries are deepening with each passing day with drop in sales and, to make the matters worse, he hadn’t made a single sale for the last two days. The few trekking bags and wind jackets that hung near the entrance were left undusted as the pile of on-sale items looked faded.
Dispirited by the lack of customers, he had not bothered to clean them for a while.
Already three months have elapsed since the massive earthquake of April 25 and the aftershocks, but the Thamel area is yet to regain its characteristic hustle and bustle of a highly busy business district of Kathmandu.
Among the numerous businesses in the hip areas of Kathmandu, shops selling trekking accessories are among the hardest hits.
“Business has gone down. This has been the worst business year for me and other friends who are involved in selling trekking goods in Thamel. Business revival looks far and difficult to achieve,” said Rai.
Even in the off season months for trekking, Rai used to make at least Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a day. Today, on the best days, he makes about Rs 5,000.
The plight of Dipendra Rai, originally from Solukhambu district, is even worse. Unlike Sitaram, Dipendra has gone without a single sale for five straight days.
“August has begun and October is just around the corner. Tourist season is about to kick off, but the flow of tourist coming to Nepal is very discouraging,” said Dipendra.
Trekking season in Nepal starts from mid-September and continues till December. According to both sellers, during these peak seasons, the shops make at least Rs 70,000, with sales sometimes crossing Rs 100,000, per day.
Best part of buying trekking goods in these shops is their affordable price range. When the price of a down jacket in a brand showroom starts from Rs 10,000, locals and foreigners can buy a whole lot of items with the same budget.
“Trekkers always travel with fixed budget and their need usually gets fulfilled when they come to us. With a budget of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000, a single person can easily purchase all the basic trekking gears in our shops and the quality is also comparatively good,” said Surendra.
Most of these sellers have their own factory that produces almost all kinds of trekking gears.
“Lets hope, both government and media play a vital role in advocating the facts that Nepal is safe for traveling. The flow of tourist has definitely increased over the weeks and I firmly believe more will come in the coming days,” said Surendra.