POKHARA, Dec 10: Hotel and restaurant operators of Pokhara are hopeful that the ongoing 13th South Asian Games (SAG) 2019 will contribute to increase tourist footfalls in the lake city.
They say they were hopeful of seeing notable growth tourist arrivals in 2020 which is being celebrated as Visit Nepal Year 2020. The country has set a target of welcoming 2 million visitors during the yearlong tourism promotional campaign.
Nepal is hosting the regional sporting extravaganza for the third time in Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and Janakpur. The event, which started on December 1, is concluding on Tuesday. The country is expecting to welcome at least two million foreign tourists in 2020.
According to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), number of visitors from South Asia constitutes 25% of total tourist arrivals of the country. Mani Lamichhane, the information officer with NTB, said he was hopeful that arrivals from South Asian countries will increase in the coming years due to the South Asian games.
India is the largest tourism generating market for Nepal. In 2018, nearly 17% of tourists that entered Nepal via air were from India. Sri Lanka is the second largest tourist generating market for Nepal. Arrivals from Sri Lanka accounted for 6% of total tourist arrivals of Nepal during the year. Similarly, Bangladesh contributes some 2% of total tourist arrivals for Nepal. Arrivals from Bhutan, Pakistan and the Maldives are negligible.
"Athletes can play a role of brand ambassador of Nepali tourism in their respective countries. It will minimize Nepal's publicity cost to some extent," Lamichhane added.
The government has unveiled plan to inaugurate the yearlong tourism promotional campaign in Pokhara on June 1. The government has earmarked Rs 200 billion for the campaign.
The sporting extravaganza has also helped to increase domestic tourism movement, according to tourism entrepreneurs of the lake city. Surya Bahadur Bhujel, former chairman of Pokhara Tourism Council, said the South Asian games have attracted many domestic tourists to Pokhara. "Media persons, who are accompanying athletes of their respective countries, are helping in promotion of Pokhara. While reporting performance of their respective athletes, they have also promoted attractions of Pokhara. This will certainly help us to get more tourists," added Bhujel.
Ganesh Bahadur Bhattarai, a tourism entrepreneur, said that the games have helped to disseminate positive information about Pokhara in the region. "Sporting events are being organized without any hassles. Athletes are satisfied with our hospitality. This will help to promote country's tourism business," he added.
He also claimed that hoteliers in Pokhara are offering quality services to athletes, officials and media persons who are in Pokhara.