KATHMANDU, July 26: As the tourism business continues to take the COVID-19 generated blow, tourism entrepreneurs have sought a 50 percent waiver on their electricity bills.
A COVID-19 Tourism Business Disaster Coordination Committee formed by tourism entrepreneurs has submitted a memorandum to the Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Barshaman Pun, asking for the exemption. Tourism related businesses in Thamel and other major tourist areas have not been operating after the government decided to enforce nationwide lockdown following the fear of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
However, tourism entrepreneurs have been complaining that they are obliged to pay the demand charge to the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). “We are required to pay the amount despite being unable to use the service which has posed a problem to our financials,” the committee said issuing a statement. “We request the authorities concerned to exempt the businesses of the demand charge and allow us to pay the amount as per the unit used.” The committee has asked the government to provide a 50 percent exemption from the time of the enforcement of the lockdown to at least two years from then.
“The government is positive about our proposal and the minister validated our concern,” Bhabishwar Sharma, vice president at Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC) told Republica. The memorandum was handed to the ministry on Friday. Sharma who leads the committee said that the minister has assured the tourism entrepreneurs to look into their problems.
Different organizations including TTDC, Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Nepal Freight Forwarders Association (NEFA), Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA), Tourist Bus Association of Nepal (TBAN), Foreign Exchangers’ Association of Nepal (FEAN) and Export Council of Nepal, among others have collectively requested the waiver.
Nepal’s tourism and aviation sector has incurred an estimated loss of Rs 41 billion since the country was put under the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The worldwide travel restriction and suspension of international flights have hampered the tourism sector. According to a report produced by a government-formed committee after the study of the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and aviation sector, the sector had incurred an average loss of Rs 10 billion per month since the country went into the lockdown.
The government on July 21 decided to lift the nationwide lockdown and allow hotels, restaurants and travel agencies to open from July 30.