Pokhara, July 31, 2016:Â Despite the free-visa provision, the flow of Chinese visitors to Pokhara has remained dismal, tourism entrepreneurs have said.
Before last yearâ€™s earthquakes, visitors from the northern neighbour accounted for almost 50 percent of the total number of tourists visiting the lake city. But the arrivals, which decreased sharply after the disaster, have not improved even after the implementation of the free-visa provision in 2016.
â€œIts (the visa-free provisionâ€™s) impact has been minimum so far,â€ said Bharat Raj Parajuli, president of Western Region Hotel Association.
The entrepreneurs recommended that the government make efforts to reopen the Tatopani border point, upgrade road connectingÂ the border and ensureÂ more air connectivity with northern neighbour to boost Chinese arrivals.
â€œThe number of Chinese visitors will not grow as expected as long as the key border point remainsÂ closed,â€ said Govinda Raj Pahari, a member of the National Tourism Promotion Committee.
The lake city never witnessed â€œoff-seasonâ€, even during the monsoon, for several years before the quake, thanks to ever growing inflow of Chinese tourists, the entrepreneurs said, adding Pokhara was emerging as tourist destination for all seasons.
More than 90 percent of the Chinese tourists visiting Pokhara participated in adventure sports such as paragliding, bungee jumping, and rafting, among others. The bookings for paragliding used to take place a month in advance.
â€œParagliding companies had expanded keeping in mind the increased flow of Chinese tourists,â€ said Sovit Baniya, vice-president of Nepal Air Sports Association.
â€œBut adventure sportsÂ activities have goneÂ down since the quake,â€ he said, adding the Chinese used to visit Nepal even during the monsoon given they get vacation during the period in China.
There is not exact statistics about Chinese visitors in Pokhara. â€œBut around 50 percent the foreign tourists visiting Pokhara were Chinese before the quake,â€ said Udaya Bhattarai, chief of Tourism Board, Pokhara.
Pahari, who also runs a lodge, said it would helpful if the Chinese embassy in Nepal issued a travel advisory stating Nepal and Pokhara are safe for Chinese tourists.
ByÂ Lal Prasad Sharma