CHITWAN, Aug 20: Tourism in Sauraha, which was battered by last week's floods, is gradually returning back to normalcy.
Lodges and resorts have reopened, and jungle activities like elephant safari has resumed. Number of tourists, however, is very low, according to local tourism entrepreneurs and the officials of the Chitwan National Park.
Massive floods in Rapti and Budhi Rapti River had inundated this buzzing tourist town last Sunday. Local tourism entrepreneurs had rescued as many as 600 tourists with the help of elephants. Though tourist arrivals fell to zero in the next few days, arrival started picking up since Wednesday when the national park office resume sale of tickets.
Abhinaya Pathak, an assistance conservation officer with the Chitwan National Park (CNP), said that only five tourists had purchased entry ticket of the CNP on Wednesday. “But the number increased to 48 on Thursday, 66 on Friday and 70 on Saturday,” he added.
The CNP, however, is still to resume jeep safari and jungle safari inside the national park. Local lodges and resorts are operating jeep and elephant safari in community forests at the buffer zone of the CNP.
“Before the floods, as many as 300-400 tourists were enjoying jungle safari on a daily basis. There were only around 100 tourists for jungle safari on Sunday,” Nagendra Chapagain, managing director of United Elephant Safari Cooperative, told Republica.
Chitwan National Park is the third major tourist destination of the country after the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara.
Of around 200,000 tourists visiting the CNP, almost 90 percent stay in Sauraha.
Last week's floods had affected all 110 lodges and resorts in Sauraha. Some lodges and resorts started operation after water levels receded in the river. All lodges and resorts are expected come into operation within five days.
According to Suman Ghimire, president of Regional Hotel Association Chitwan, lodges and resorts in Sauraha faced damage worth around Rs 150 million due to the floods.
Meanwhile, Vice-President of the National Planning Commission, Swarnim Wagle, visited Sauraha on Saturday to take stock of the damage caused by the floods. Ghimire told Republica that local hoteliers requested Wagle to bring relief package for resort and lodge owners have been facing series of problems due to earthquakes, blockade, fuel crisis and the poor shape of Mungling-Narayanghat road. “Wagle has assured us that the government will bring relief package for the hoteliers,” added Ghimire.
Tourists enjoy elephant safari in a community forest near Sauraha on Saturday.