- Jamuna Barsha Sharma
Tourism-related activities were completely stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when tourism entrepreneurs of Pokhara had made huge investments in tourism sector by taking loans from banks and financial institutions.
The tourism entrepreneurs, who are hoping that the tourism sector would be revived and pick up business post-COVID, are in trouble after their business still suffers following the coronavirus impacts even with the start of 2023. As a result, they have been looking for other measures to sustain their business.
Chairperson of the Hotel Association, Pokhara, Laxman Subedi said, “We being very excited had invested in the tourism business. We invested in tourism infrastructures even after taking loans from banks and financial institutions keeping the Visit Year and International Airport in mind.
But coronavirus gripped the country and tourism-related activities were completely stopped.” Dengue and plane crash are also the reasons behind hampering tourism activities, he added.
Only a minimal number of foreign tourists is now seen in the street of Pokhara which could not sustain the tourism business of Pokhara where billion of rupees have been invested, he opined, adding that the government should bring the tourism-centric program and entrepreneur-friendly relief package.
Similarly, Pokhara Tourism Council Chairperson Pom Narayan Shrestha complained that the tourism business affected by COVID-19 impacts is getting worse. The tourism entrepreneurs, who have operated the business by taking loans from banks and financial institutions, have no condition to make any payment of loan this time and the loan payment schedule should be rescheduled by the end of the fiscal year.
The government should waive the interest of the investment of the tourism sector declared by the most-affected area investment and the interest paid during COVID affected period should be discounted and returned, opined Shrestha.
Likewise, the Chairperson of the Nepal Association of Tours and Travel Agents, Hariram Adhikari, mentioned that the tourism sector is in trouble due to the government’s silence towards it and the pressure of banks and financial institutions.
It is a matter of sadness that the government has not recognized the tourism sector as an industry and is indifferent towards the problems of entrepreneurs of this sector. He demands the government give continuity to the ‘Life Saving Fund’ brought by the Gandaki Province Government and federal government concessional loan schemes for the business community and come up with some flexible provisions for the loan payback.
Council general secretary Sanjay Kant Sigdel sees the need for revisions in the government policies to protect investment in the tourism industry. As he shared, the tourism business here has so far sustained on loans. Investors are trying their best to hold up their businesses amidst financial insecurities.
“We ask for help to others to clear bank installments quarterly with the hope that the situation will improve one day, but we reach the point where we see none to help us ahead,” he said. The term of facilities brought by the government the previous year for the relief of the business community should be at least three years and it should be accessible to all target groups.
Nepal Airsports Association outgoing Chair and Council Vice-Chair Krishna Bhandari underlined the need of reducing banks’ and finances’ interest rates to a single digit and of bringing the mandatory provision of banks and finances soft loans for the tourism industry as in agriculture.
Tourism entrepreneurs here were hopeful to see the revival of the business with the operation of the Pokhara International Airport. But a delay in operating the international flight has made them further disappointed. They demand the government take substantive initiatives to launch the service soon.
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