Is paragliding dying a slow death in Pokhara?

Published On: March 23, 2023 05:00 PM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

KATHMANDU, March 23: After the Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) came into operation; commercial paragliding that had been taking place in the sky of Sarangkot was transferred to Mandre Dhunga, about five kilometers west of Sarangkot. During the tourist season, the paragliding area used to be very busy with one after another flight in the sky of Sarangkot, but the adventure activity has not gained the expected momentum in Mandre Dhunga, according to tourism entrepreneurs.

Tourism entrepreneurs say that after the airport came into operation on January 1, paragliding activities were relocated to the skies of Mandre Dhunga. However, the business has not yet returned to normal. Paragliding pilots also complain that the tourism sector seems to be oblivious to paragliding. They complain that the business even in the tourist season is not as expected. The pilots also complained that they were not able to fly regularly, many commercial paragliding pilots had become unemployed and some of them had gone abroad.

“Pilots who have been paragliding for a long time are now unemployed. Some of the pilots we know have already gone abroad while some are learning foreign languages," said one of the tandem pilots of paragliding. He said that some pilots have started looking for places to fly elsewhere as an alternative.

Tourists visiting Pokhara used to see paragliding in the Sarangkot sky while visiting the city. “Many tourists were tempted to do paragliding after seeing that scene,'' said the pilot, “But at present, people don't even know if paragliding exists in Pokhara. They don’t know if there are regular flights. Paragliding, which had marketed itself, has now become almost anonymous. Almost two and half decades of flight history has now come to a complete stop.”

According to Bimal Pahari, president of the Paragliding Pilot Club, when flying to Sarangkot, pilots used to get a chance to fly at least 2-3 times a day. However, after it was transferred to Mandre Dhunga, the pilots are able to fly only one day in a week. “This is the 'peak time' for paragliding. However, at present, paragliding, which has made a very wide identity in the tourism sector of Pokhara, has become anonymous," said Pahari.

According to him, while flying from Mandre Dhunga, one does not see the same scenery as seen from Sarangkot. He said that while flying from Sarangkot, one could see the serpentine form of the Harpan River, Phewa Lake, Himalayan peaks to the north, greenery, Pokhara market, but all those sights are missed when flying from Mandre Dhunga. "You cannot go higher than the prescribed height and no matter how high one goes, they cannot see the same view seen while flying from Sarangkot," Pahari said, "As there is no more a beautiful scene, even tourists can't be happy while paragliding from Mandre Dhunga ."

Similarly, Pahari said, "Even if paragliding was not allowed from Sarangkot, there would have been some relief if we were able to fly from Toripani. But paragliding became deserted as we had to go far away from Toripani. Unfortunately, it is not possible to save this profession just by flying 2-3 times a week." There is uncertainty about the future of about 40 pilots who are preparing to enter paragliding as their profession.

Likewise, Krishna Bhandari, the outgoing president of Nepal Airsports Association (NAA), the umbrella organization of paragliding professionals, also said that paragliding is not the same in Mandre Dhunga as in Sarangkot. “We have requested the authorities to see if something can be done about paragliding. Paragliding has not been able to flourish commercially in Mandre Dhunga," said Bhandari, "The location has made a difference. At this time, the overall tourism sector has become weak. However, paragliding has declined even more.”


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