POKHARA, May 10: Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) has been operational for four months now. The tourism entrepreneurs of Pokhara were hopeful of the operation of international flights from Pokhara from the very first day (January 1, 2023) when the international airport came into operation.
The entrepreneur wanted to bring foreign guests directly to Pokhara by connecting the lake city with international cities through a direct air network. However, the entrepreneurs are worried that there are no signs that the airport will start international flights even after four months of operation. Apart from international flights, entrepreneurs are upset that no one has even taken approval for international flights in Pokhara for this season. Entrepreneurs say, “Pokhara needs international flights, but the airport is kept limited to domestic flights.”
According to Laxman Subedi, president of Hotel Association Pokhara, after the international airport was built in Pokhara, entrepreneurs started increasing investment in the tourism sector. By the time the airport came into operation, the entrepreneur had already increased their investment. Some also spent large sums on maintenance. However, entrepreneurs are disappointed because of the lack of international flights from the airport.
“Pokhara is not happy because international flights have not been fixed. The entrepreneurs who poured massive investment after the construction of the airport are now regretful,” said Subedi, “Our wish was that Pokhara International Airport should not be used only for domestic flights, but there is no immediate initiative for international flights. This has disappointed the entrepreneurs who added massive investment.” He said that the airport will not make sense until Pokhara's desire to bring foreign guests directly to the city is fulfilled.
"We have knocked on the doors of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAN) to the prime minister and the ambassadors of various countries. However, there is no immediate possibility of international flights from Pokhara,” he said, “The hope created by the airport has now turned into disappointment.”
He said that the entrepreneurs have knocked on the doors of various agencies to try for chartered flights, if not regular flights. “Chartered flights are now flying from Kathmandu to various cities in China to bring Chinese tourists. We want chartered flights in Pokhara, but we did not find any proper initiative in this regard,” he said.
Subedi said that the entrepreneurs had high expectations during the opening of the international airport, but they have now lost hope.
Investors are spending millions of rupees in the hotel industry of Pokhara.
Some of these hotels were started along with the construction of the airport. Entrepreneur Dorje Lama, who started building the hotel only six months before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, is bringing the hotel into operation next month.
"The hotel is ready, but there is no sign of international flights from Pokhara International Airport. This has disappointed us," Lama said.
He said that the authorities concerned have shown little interest in operating international flights from Pokhara International Airport.
It is not yet certain when and which airline will operate international flights from Pokhara International Airport, which is limited to domestic flights only. Government officials have been saying that there are problems from air route to destination identification in order to connect Pokhara to external destinations through international flights. The government has also been saying that it is taking diplomatic initiatives to ask for an air route with India.
Pomnarayan Shrestha, president of Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC), the umbrella organization of Pokhara's tourism entrepreneurs, says that since the days when Pokhara International Airport was operational, he was hopeful that international flights would start, but he did not get any sign until now. "We were hopeful that domestic and international flights would start immediately. However, that did not happen. The entrepreneurs are worried. The state should be serious about this,” says Shrestha, “There does not seem to be any concrete initiative. This has caused despair among the investors.”
He said that even if the international airlines do not want to fly to Pokhara, the government can start international flights with the country’s flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation. But the government has not taken any initiative to this end either.
“The government could have done something if it wanted, but it never did anything,” said Shrestha, adding, if Nepal Airlines starts flying, it will open the way for foreign airlines to come to Pokhara.
“There has been no concrete work for international flights. We have taken a lot of initiative, there is nothing left to request,” he said, “No one has an answer to the question of when the international flight will start.”