February 10: The impact of coronavirus outbreak in China’s Wuhan is clearly visible in the tourism industry of Pokhara. Lakeside Pokhara, which used to be full of Chinese tourists during this season, wears a deserted look.
The visit of Chinese tourists has come to a halt since the outbreak of the deadly disease about a month ago during the Chinese New Year.
Chinese airlines have suspended international flights to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has already killed over 900 people as of end of Sunday (February 9). As a result, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Pokhara has almost come to a standstill.
During previous years, hotel occupancy in Pokhara during this season used to be around 40 to 50 percent. Out of them, 25 percent used to be Chinese nationals, official data suggest.
However, tourist occupancy is negligible this season.
“Chinese tourists have cancelled their bookings,” said Bikal Tulachan, chairman of Western Region Hotel Association.
The decrease in number of Chinese tourists has affected the overall hotel occupancy, he said.
“Earlier, the hotel occupancy used to be around 40 percent in this season. But it is just 15 to 20 percent this time,” he said.
Besides Chinese tourists, other foreign visitors have also cancelled their visits, according to Tulachan. Most of the tourists who were in Pokhara have also cut short their trip and returned.
Meanwhile, vice president of Pokhara chapter of Nepal Tours and Travels Association (NTTA), Sanjay Kanta Sigdel, said that the hotel occupancy has decreased from 80 percent to 30 percent as a result of coronavirus outbreak.
Pokhara is the prime destination of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal. Keeping this in mind, the government has set up a health desk at the Pokhara Airport for screening passengers.