Valley’s heritage sites await tourists’ return

Valley’s heritage sites await tourists’ return

In the second week of June, about two months after the April 25 earthquake, the country reopened its temple-filled durbar squares to the public. The reopening of durbar squares, the major tourist attractions in the Kathmandu Valley where much of the monuments and heritage structures were levelled by the quake, was a significant move, as the country heavily relies on tourism. The aim was to attract tourists to give a fillip to the tourism sector.

But according to the Hanuman Dhoka Area Conservation Programme (HDACP), Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square has failed to see tourists in numbers that it was expecting. The number of foreign visitors has decreased by around 60 percent, said the HDACP.

Compared to 500 visitors a day during this time of the year, the World Heritage Site greets only about 200 now.

An unofficial blockade imposed in September following the promulgation of the constitution also came as a setback.

The decline in number has greatly affected revenue collection—entry fee for international tourists at Hanuman Dhoka is Rs1,000 per person and for those from Saarc countries, it is Rs150.

According to the HDACP, the revenue from entry fee has gone down from Rs500,000 a day to around Rs200,000 a day now.

“The earthquake had dealt a devastating blow and the blockade only complicated the problem,” said Narendra Bilas Bajracharya, chief of the HDACP. “Tourists have also stayed off Nepal due to rumours of another major quake.”

According to data of the Department of Immigration, tourist arrivals to Nepal fell
to a six-year low of 538,970 in 2015. A total of 4,893 foreigners had visited Hanuman Dhoka in the last fiscal year (2014-15), generating a total of Rs157 million from entry fee. But in the current fiscal year (2015-16), which began in July, Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square has earned Rs31.6 million.

Built between the 12th and 18th centuries by Malla kings of Nepal, Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square boasts Newari architecture and Hindu temples. According to the Department of Archaeology, 26 structures, including Kasthamandap Mandir, Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex and Krishna Mandir, either were flattened or had suffered damage.

Falling numbers

Compared to 500 visitors a day during this time of the year, Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square currently greets only about 200
Revenue from entry fee has gone down from Rs500,000 a day to around Rs200,000
A total of 4,893 foreigners visited the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square in the last fiscal year (2014-15), generating around Rs157 million from entry fee. But in the current fiscal year (2015-16), which begain in July, it has earned only around Rs31.6 million in revenue
Bhaktapur braces for revenue loss

The Bhaktapur Municipality is bracing for a revenue loss to the tune of Rs 110, thanks to declining number of tourists. According to the municipality, there has been a sharp decline in number of tourists after the April earthquake. Tourism accounts for half of municipality’s total budget.

The municipality’s budget has come down to Rs 340 million this fiscal year, compared to Rs 481 million last fiscal. Bhaktapur usually receives around 300,000 tourists annually, but the number has gone down by half this fiscal year, which started in July. The municipality had earned Rs 210 million from tourism last year, almost half of the municipality’s total budget.

“If we can generate half of last year’s revenue, we should be satisfied,” said Kamal Ghimire, acting chief and executive of the municipality.

Bhaktapur was the most affected city in the Valley, with over 18,000 private houses flattened and 300 government buildings, hospitals and schools damaged when the earthquake struck on April 25. (PR)

Source: The Kathmandu Post