Coronavirus hits Chitwan tourism hard

Published On: March 13, 2020 01:22 PM NPT By: Surya Prakash Kandel

CHITWAN, March 13: The widespread outbreak of coronavirus has affected the tourism sector in the country. Sauraha, the main tourist destination of Chitwan, has not received international tourists in recent times. 

Tourism entrepreneurs in Chitwan have decided to cut down on staff as domestic tourist arrivals have also decreased.

According to Dipak Bhattarai, chairperson of the Regional Hotel Association, Sauraha, due to the fear of transmission of the coronavirus, Sauraha has become deserted even in the tourist season. “The occupancy rate during the tourist season in Sauraha was 65%, but now the occupancy rate is hardly 15%,” said Bhattarai. “In peak season, Chinese tourists made up 40% of the total tourist arrivals, along with 40% of domestic tourists and the rest from various other countries. In recent days, there are no any international tourists.” 

Hotel entrepreneurs of Sauraha are compelled to send their workers home or pay them half the wages due to the decline in tourist arrivals.

Chitwan is regarded as the third top destination of Nepal. After Kathmandu and Pokhara, Sauraha is the most popular destination among international and domestic tourists. Chitwan National Park is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourists visit Sauraha to observe the endangered species, the national park and the lifestyle of the Tharu people and their tradition. 

There are more than 120 hotels in Sauraha with the capacity to accommodate 5,550 tourists at a time.

The arrival of tourists also has decreased in Meghauli. The hotel rooms of Meghauli Serai and Barahi Jungle Lodge are empty. Bookings of international tourists have been cancelled. 

According to Barun Kumar, managing director of Barahi Jungle Lodge, there are only Nepali tourists in his hotel. “Nearly 70% of international tourists have cancelled their bookings. Out of 41 beds, only five are occupied,” said Kumar. “We have not thought about sending workers on leave yet. After two-three weeks, we will decide on it.” 

Meghauli has 10 hotels which can accommodate 355 people at a time and 10 home stays with the capacity to accommodate 80 tourists.

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