Chitwan, March 11
The widespread fear of coronavirus pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the tourism industry in Chitwan. Though this is the time when Chitwan’s Sauraha would usually be packed with tourists, the tourism hotspot has witnessed very few visitors this year.
According to Regional Hotel Association Sauraha former chair Suman Ghimire, hotels here are running with just 20 per cent occupancy now, down from the usual 70 per cent of the past year around this time.
“We had huge expectation this year, but the expectations are likely to be just expectations amidst the worldwide coronavirus scare,” said Ghimire. “We can somehow cope with this depression in business if it is to be a short-term phenomenon; it will have a serious impact if the present condition drags on for longer though,” Ghimire added further.
For Sauraha, the period between March and May is the peak tourism season, but, according to the RHA Sauraha, just around 250 visitors come daily these days compared to 1000-plus in the past around this time.
“Earlier, every day around 700 Chinese tourists would come here for a visit, but this is no longer the case. It’s very hard to see even a single Chinese tourist here nowadays. Again as the virus has also been reported in India lately, it has brought down the number of visitors from that country as well,” said Ghimire.
Suraha has over 100 hotels. And with the huge tumble in Chinese visitors, most affected are hotels dependent on Chinese visitors. They are now teetering on brink of closure. Some of those hotels have slashed their manpower or granted unpaid leave.
“Out of the total 40 rooms in our hotel, only five are booked,” said Chitwan Forest Resort owner Deepak Bhattarai, who is also the sitting chairperson of the association. “Out of 25 workers, I have granted leave to 12,” he said, adding some domestic tourists along with few tourists from India and Europe are keeping the hotels in business.
Chitwan’s Sauraha is famous worldwide for the rare one-horned rhino, striped tiger and birds.
A version of this article appears in print on March 12, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.