Hoteliers join hands to provide free food to stranded tourists facing financial hardships

Published On: April 12, 2020 08:27 AM NPT By: Aditi Baral

KATHMANDU, April 12: Each morning at 11 am, Rameen Masumi and Arsalon Somanyan head for Hotel Northfield in Thamel to collect free food that the hotel has been distributing to foreigners stranded in the area as a result of the nationwide lockdown enforced by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-9). Masumi and Somanian came from Iran for a month-long trip to Nepal.

But the suspension of all international flights to and from Nepal has left them stuck in Thamel for the past few weeks. “We were supposed to fly back home on March 26. But we are stuck here due to the lockdown,” said 49-year-old Masumi.

In a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, Nepal like many other countries worldwide has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 23. This has brought all kids of businesses and office works across the country including both domestic and international flights to a complete halt.

Masumi and Somanyan are just two among many foreigners who are compelled to stay in various hotels at Thamel and different parts of the Kathmandu Valley due to the lockdown. And no wonder, each new day brings them new hardships to manage financial expenses. “Honestly, it's very hard for us to manage our finances as we came for just a month. But it has been almost two months now we have been here," said Masumi.“We have been managing somehow collecting free foods like this and luckily our hotel owner too has slightly lowered the prices.”

Hotel Northfield in association with Labella Café and Restaurant and Bar Association, Nepal (REBAN) has been serving free food to foreigners stranded in Thamel since the third day of the lockdown. According to the Manager of the Hotel, Gagan Ayer, the hotel started this initiative considering the hardships the stranded tourists were facing in finding food as most of them were running short of money. The hotel later received support from various institutions including Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). “We distribute food to around 60-70 tourists every day. Our little help can greatly help the foreigners, who have been facing difficult times due to the lockdown," said Ayer.

The food is distributed two times a day – in the morning and in the evening. “It's a kind gesture from the hoteliers to distribute free food to us as we have been facing a really hard time here,” said Shiv Dutta, 23, who came to Nepal from India early March for a two-week trek to Everest Basecamp.

However, like everyone else, Dutta is forced to confine himself to a hotel room in Thamel due to the lockdown. “I reach up to collect the free food two times a day as I recklessly spent all my money in the mountains,” he told Republica. “My family back home is really worried about me. Nevertheless, initiatives like this has been of a great help.”

In addition to food and money, Japanese couple, Noboru Hichinari, 69, and his wife, who came to Nepal in February and were supposed to fly back home earlier this month, face shortage of medicines they have to take on a daily basis. The medicines they have with them are now almost finished.

Another American couple John and Kate Warren shared how worried they are about their family back in the US. “We came here to travel, leaving three children back home on their own. It is very hard to discern that they've been living without their parents when the entire world is suffering from the pandemic,” said Kate.

However, despite these problems, the Warrens feel safer to stay here than in their country U.S. which has emerged as a new epicenter for the coronavirus, with 503,177 reported cases and 18,761 deaths as of Saturday.

Hoteliers estimate that there are more than 1,000 foreign tourists still stranded in Thamel. All of them have been confined to their hotel rooms with limited food, resources and even money. However, REBAN and NTB, according to them, have been doing their level-best to help these tourists in every way possible.

Despite all the hardships and difficulties, most tourists stranded in Nepal feel that Nepal is a safer place for them as it is not yet largely affected by the virus, unlike most other countries in the world.

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