POKHARA, Oct 20: Tourist destinations of the Annapurna area including Ghandruk have decided to not operate hotels for an indefinite period. Tourism entrepreneurs are worried of COVID-19 transmission if they allow tourists to enter the village. Uncertainty remains regarding the operation of hotels in Ghandruk and Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).
But another trekking trail in Annapurna region, Manang, is open for travelers. The domestic tourists, however, are required to present negative PCR reports while entering the zone. The local government has stated that tourists holding negative PCR reports can visit Manang. Few domestic tourists have started visiting the place after the local government issued this notice.
Chame and Manang Ngisyang Rural Municipality of Manang have decided to allow tourists with negative PCR reports to enter the premises. Nar Bahadur Chand, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Chame Rural Municipality said: “Tourists who can produce PCR negative reports can enter Manang whereas those not having the report will be returned from the border point of Manang and Lamjung.” “PCR negative report is mandatory to enter the district,” he added.
According to him, other rural municipalities have also followed the decision of Chame Municipality. “Negative PCR report acquired within the last 72 hours is required. Otherwise, they will not be allowed in Manang,” he said. “Hotels might seek the same report, so it has been made mandatory.”
Residents and officials of Manang, however, will not face any trouble while entering the district. The local authority argues that such a decision has been taken to minimize the transmission risk as domestic tourists visit the area in huge numbers during Dashain and Tihar. “Although there are few cases in the district and the locals are safe, if we allow just anyone in the district the risk might intensify,” Chand told Republica.
“If they comply with the rules, they can stay in the district as long as they want,” said Dipak Dhakal, CAO of Manang Ngisyang Rural Municipality. “The decision was made as per the demand of the local entrepreneurs.”
According to Dhakal, it is up to the entrepreneurs whether to open their businesses but the tourists will not have to struggle for food and accommodation. Some hotels in the trekking trails have started opening up.
Tourism entrepreneurs too have said that they will welcome tourists if they have got a negative PCR report. “The decision to make PCR report mandatory has assured us of safety and we can serve the tourists without fear,” Binod Gurung, a Manang-based tourism entrepreneur said adding that with the decision into effect, he has accommodated six tourists on Monday.
Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) officer Babulal Tiruwa affirmed that there will be no problem for tourists if they can bring negative PCR reports. “Last year there was a crowd of people visiting Manang at this time but COVID-19 has changed the whole scenario this year,” he commented.
Around 30,000 foreigners visit Manang every year, followed by almost the same number of domestic tourists. Most of the tourists reach Mustang through Thorangla Bhanjyang.