Pokhara tourism industry bears brunt of Annapurna blizzard

Tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara fear the blizzard and avalanches in the Annapurna Region in the second week of October, which claimed lives of many trekkers and Nepali support staff, could affect their business.

They say foreign tourists could defer or cancel their plan to trek in the Annapurna Region following the disaster.

Blizzards and avalanches in different parts of the Annapurna Region on October 14 claimed at least 40 lives.

Hoteliers say some foreign tourists have already canceled their bookings. Hari Sharma, president of Paschimanchal Hotel Association Pokhara, told Republica that the tragic incident during the peak tourist season may have frightened many foreigners. “Many tourists have already diverted to other destinations,” he added. “Hotels in Pokhara used to be full at this time of year. Now, we have only handful of tourists.”

Tourism entrepreneurs say the disaster also tarnished the image of the Annapurna Region which is home to some of the best trekking trails in the world.

“Foreigners have started saying that trekking in Nepal are not safe and lack even basic infrastructures,” added Sharma.

Om Prakash Pandey, proprietor of Landmark Hotel, said 26 visitors from Germany and Australia have cancelled their booking after the Annapurna blizzard. “They were preparing to trek in the Annapurna Region. Following the disaster, they have diverted to other destination,” he added.

Similarly, officials of Shangri-La Village Resort said 72 Japanese visitors have canceled their booking. Gupt Giri, front office manager of the resort, said four groups of Japanese tourists had booked rooms for two nights. “They had booked the rooms for one night before the trek and another night after the trek. But they have canceled all the bookings,” Giri said.

Around 115,000 foreign tourists trek in Annapurna Region annually.

Ram Chandra Sharma, president of Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Pokhara Chapter, said the Annapurna blizzard would make long-term impact on Nepali tourism industry. “As we couldn´t rescue trekkers stuck in different trekking trails in time, foreigners feel Nepal is not a safe destination. It is a big setback for the tourism industry,” he added.

Tourism experts also say the Annapurna blizzards will deteriorate country´s tourism image in the international market. “We couldn´t adopt precautionary measures even though India was on high alert to minimize the impact,” tourism expert Jhalak Thapa said.

My Republica