Tourism entrepreneurs in Sauraha have launched discount schemes in a bid to bring back tourists after arrivals took a plunge in the wake of the April 25 Great Quake.
The highly popular jungle safari destination in the southern plains was not greatly affected by the tremor which devastated parts of Nepal, but potential visitors have been staying away following exaggerated reports of widespread destruction across the country, travel traders said.
They have urged the government to appoint a goodwill ambassador to promote tourism in the international market. According to them, Sauraha is good but tourists have been discouraged from visiting Nepal due to blown-up negative publicity.
Tourism entrepreneur Shankar Sainju said most of the tourism destinations in the country were safe even though the people had suffered great hardships.
“There is a need to spread positive message that the road network, airports and structures in most of the destinations that attract tourists are secure,” said Sainju.
Many tourists and foreign travel agencies who cancelled their bookings have been enquiring about the country’s situation, he added.
Tourism entrepreneurs said they were ready to provide their services at cost to revive tourism.
A number of hotels have started offering their rooms at heavy discounts. Madhav Dawadi, proprietor of the Hotel Seven Star, said they had slashed their room tariff by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, Sauraha has been celebrating Zero Poaching Year for the last three years. The number of one-horned rhinos has swelled in recent years as a result of the endeavour to protect wildlife. The tourism industry has been saying that the achievement should be publicized internationally.
Apart from the increase in the number of rhinos, the tiger population is also reported to have grown.
“If the government offers longer visas and reduces the airfare, it would encourage foreign tourists to stay longer,” said Kamal Jung Kunwar, chief of Chitwan National Park.
Tourism experts have called on the government to work to expand bilateral ties with other countries and with particular towns and cities. This could also help promote tourism, they said.
Of the total tourist arrivals to Nepal, Indian tourists account for 22 percent while Chinese and Sri Lankan visitors make up 11 and 7 percent respectively.
Entrepreneurs have also stressed the need to encourage overland visitors. They said that an integrated work plan targeting Lumbini, Pokhara and Chitwan could increase the number of Indian visitors. Sainju said they could even target Indian tourists from the border towns through the programme.
Apart from other prospects, Nepal is a big draw for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. As most of the holy sites along with the road network connecting them were unaffected by the Great Earthquake, arrivals in the segment can be expected to increase.
Tourism expert Bhagirath Sapkota said Nepal could attract a large number of Tibetan visitors if the highways were repaired.
Suman Ghimire, vice-president of the Regional Hotel Entrepreneurs’ Association, said Sauraha ’s major attractions like elephant riding, jungle safari, boating, visit to crocodile breeding centre and night viewing of wildlife were all fine.
There are 150 hotels and 100 restaurants in the area representing an estimated investment of Rs100 billion.
They provide 500 jobs and pay Rs300-350 million in taxes to the government.
The local accommodation facilities can handle 3,000 visitors at a time.