Som Bdr. Thapa is a renowned name in the field of tourism in Pokhara. He is the President of Pokhara Tourism Council and the managing director of Community Nepal Travels and Tours, based in Pokhara. Rajiv Joshi of Tourism News Digest (TND) recently talked to Thapa to know about different aspects of tourism industry in Pokhara. Excerpts:
TND: How is the present scenario of tourism industry in Pokhara?
Thapa: Tourism industry of the country has been affected by series of untoward incidents and Pokhara cannot be an exception to it. Tourism industry of Pokhara has been severely affected. In the recent past, natural disasters, like the blizzards in the Annapurna Region and the earthquake of April 25 made severe impact on tourism industry of Pokhara. The ongoing political turmoil has only added to our woes. Tourism in Pokhara was gradually recovering after the earthquake of April 25. But the unrest in different Tarai districts as well as the shortage of petroleum products and daily essentials has hit the industry hard. Movement of tourists has been affected. Tourism in Pokhara is suffering also because we don’t have direct connectivity to the rest of the world. Before the earthquake, we were seeing new investments in hospitality industry of Pokhara. But the devastating earthquake and the ongoing political turmoil has made serious impact on our industry.
TND: What is Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC) doing for tourism recovery in Pokhara?
Thapa: PTC is committed for development and promotion of tourism sector of Pokhara and surrounding areas. After the earthquake, we have been working hard to the tourism of Pokhara to normalcy. The tourism fraternity of Pokhara came together and announced various plans and programs for tourism recovery. They also launched special offers and products with value additions to attract more tourists. PTC has also been trying hard to disseminate correct information to the world and telling them that Pokhara and its surrounding areas are safe to travel. As safety of visitors in Pokhara is of primary concern, we are putting focus on making Pokhara safe for tourists so that they do not have to face any problem while they are here. Apart from this, we are also planning to go to the international arena for publicity and promotion campaigns. For this, we are preparing various promotional materials and devising plans to enter international market in an effective way.
TND: Pokhara has established itself as a first choice destination for both international as well as domestic visitors. Being a tour operator, what do you think is the major concern of tourists visiting Pokhara?
Thapa: Pokhara has always been a premier destination for both domestic and international tourists. We are constantly offering new tourism products to our visitors. The lake city is gradually making its place as the premiere adventure destination in the country. At present, the major concern has been the safety and security of visitors. To address this, we are trying hard to convince our clients that Nepal is safe and there is no reason to worry about. Our tourism industry suffered because of negative portrayal by international media. Now we should work to repair the damage made by such negative publicity by disseminating ground realities of Nepal in the international market. It would be difficult to bring tourists here unless the ongoing situation improves.
TND: Pokhara is the gateway to popular trekking routes in Annapurna Region. But trekking trails are shortening with the construction of roads, leading to shortening of tourists’ length of stay. What is PTC doing in this regard?
Thapa: It is true that the trekking trails in the Annapurna Region are shortening with the construction of roads. We are not against construction of roads as they are important for the development of the area. But haphazard road construction has affected our beautiful trekking trails. This has not only shortened trekking trips but also created negative impacts on environment. Realizing this fact, we are also trying to identify, explore and promote new trails and destinations, as Pokhara and surrounding areas have immense tourism potentials. But due to various obstacles in the past and the present situation, our effort has also been affected.
TND: How optimistic are you regarding the construction of international airport in Pokhara?
Thapa: We have been hearing talks about construction of international airport in Pokhara since long. But we have been seeing positive development in this direction in recent years. We are very much optimistic regarding the project. Once Pokhara gets its own international airport, dependency on Kathmandu for foreign tourists will decrease gradually. With direct connectivity, we will definitely be getting more foreign tourists in Pokhara.
TND: How is the relation of Pokhara Tourism Council with other travel trade associations in Pokhara?
Thapa: PTC is the umbrella organization of various travel trade association in Pokhara. We all have been working in close coordination for the development and promotion of tourism products and services in this lake city. In this time of crisis, it is important that we all work for the benefit of the tourism industry. We should make concerted efforts to develop Pokhara as a premier destination for domestic and international visitors.