The declining tourism and hospitality sector in Nepal due to the pandemic restrictions is returning to its feet with a large number of Indians visiting the country.
Kunal, a doctor in Bihar, is an avid traveller. He earlier used to visit tourist places in Nepal frequently as the country is near to his place of residence. However, the pandemic and lockdown restrictions didn’t allow him to visit the country. He was elated when the restrictions on travel were removed and he was finally able to visit places that he missed during the pandemic.
“Nepal is like a second home to me. I lived there for many years, and I still visit the place often. It is a beautiful country. I could not go to any Nepali city due to the pandemic, but after the restrictions were lifted, I have visited more than three times,” Kunal said.
Tourism in Nepal had suffered for a long time due to the pandemic. Many hotels and tour operators in Nepal say that now the scenario has changed. They have been getting more tourists since the last two months after a dry spell of nearly two years.
Kapila Gautam, a receptionist at Hotel Lake Paradise in Pokhara, Nepal said that the hotel had very low occupancy during the pandemic which was the case till January 2022. She said that recently the business had picked up and they were getting travellers from all over the world, especially India.
“Guests are coming now. It had been a bad time for business for a long time. We are getting 400 guests on an average now, including locals and internationals. Indian tourists form a good chunk of the occupancy. I think it will only increase from now as the tourist season starts from September,” Gautam added.
Kunal states that in the earlier months he didn’t see much traffic in the places he visited in Nepal, but on his recent visit he noticed more people.
Nepal and India are neighbouring countries and they share an open border. Nepal is dependent (link) on the tourism and hospitality sector. According to a report , Nepal’s tourism sector’s revenue has decreased from $ 247 billion in 2019 to $ 132 billion in 2020. In March 2022, Nepal welcomed 42,000 tourists, at par with the tourist’s arrival in March 2020. Nepal had 1.19 million tourists arriving in 2019, which decreased to 2 lakh tourists in 2020. In 2021, tourist arrival clocked at 1,50,962 arrivals, lowest since 1977. With restrictions being eased and people moving more, last month there was an increase in tourist arrivals in the country.
Abhishek Kumar, a tourist who visited Nepal last month, said that he also saw other tourists at the resort he stayed in.“It was a good experience. I saw many other visitors at the resort I was at and the places we went to visit. After a long time, I saw such crowds.”
A Central Bureau of Statistics study on Nepal’s tourism showed that the tourism industry is the fourth largest industry in Nepal, which provides 3,71,140 jobs, and the hospitality and service industry employs about 2,43,790 people (Please check the numbers.). The pandemic had caused difficulties for these workers but things are slowly reviving.
ChigGurang, a Nepali tour operator, said that tourists are coming back to the country after a long period. He said that he thinks the condition of the struggling hospitality and tourism industry will drastically improve in the coming months.
“Covid was a very bad time for a lot of people. My business was also in a bad shape. I was struggling financially but since the last two months, the condition has improved . The tourists have come back. I am getting 100 to 200 tourists per week now. It is less than the 1,000 tourists I got before the pandemic, but still better than last year,” he added.
A spokesperson for Swiss International, a hotel in Pokhara, Nepal, also painted a similar picture. He said that the hotel is getting a minimum of 35 guests per day, which is much better than the pandemic time when the tourist inflow was at its lowest.
Tour operators from India said that they are also getting good bookings for their Nepal packages, which is a popular holiday destination among Indians.
Govind Tandon, an executive at White Stone Tour and Travels, travel agency in Bangalore said, “The condition is better now. After a long period of low demand, we have sent 30 to 40 groups of tourists (around 1,000 people) to Nepal alone in the last month. It is a popular destination, and I think the tourist inflow will only increase in the coming months.”
Dr. Robinet Jacob, Associate professor, Tourism Department, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam said that Nepal is a developing country and like many developing economies it too depends upon tourism, hospitality and other service related industries. He added that Indians go to Nepal in large quantities due to the open border and the good relations among the countries.
“Most developing countries like Nepal rely on service sectors for their economy. Nepal is rich in natural resources and sites which attracts tourists. The travel and hospitality sector was down due to the pandemic but as the restrictions have been eased now, people are travelling to Nepal. As for Indian tourists, they go to Nepal as they need no documentation and it’s cheap too for them,” he said.