Nepal tourism board skips ATM to prioritise rescue work after April 25 earthquake

Nepal’s tourism board has decided not to attend this year’s Arabian Travel Market trade fair as rescue operations back home following the April 25 earthquake take priority.

At the country’s almost empty booth, an occasional visitor dropped by who were keen to know more about the situation in Nepal.

Three tour operators who were present were optimistic tourism would pick up. They have, however, had major cancellations for the next two months.

“We expect a 15 per cent reduction in tourist numbers to be on a positive side,” said Rishav Agarwal, the second generation co-owner of Nebuti Travels in Kathmandu. It handles 5,000 visitors a year. “The hotels have temporarily closed and the staff have gone back home to help their families.”

Since April 30, his family has been in Dubai for a week as his father tries to take stock of the damage back home.

Kathmandu airport meanwhile has operations.

Dubai-based flydubai cancelled flights on the day of the earthquake. It operated two of its four flights the next day, and since then it has been operating normally, according to a spokeswoman.

Analysts have said it would cost Nepal billions of US dollars to rebuild its infrastructure, including tourism.

The industry accounts for 8 per cent of GDP, according to the Asian Development Bank.

It could take five to 10 years to restore the temples, said Bijay Amatya, the chief executive of Kathmandu-based Kora Tours.

But tour operators who made it to Dubai were optimistic that the hotels would reopen next month, and tourists will come back once the debris is cleared.

With the road network connecting the three tourist stops of Kathmandu, Pokhra and Chitwan open, one tour operator expects to also continue receiving guests this month.

“A 20-person group from Indonesia has not cancelled its trip, and we will take them on this route,” said Sarala Sapkota, the co-founder of Kathmandu-based Aarya Village Travel. “Until September it will be difficult, but after that it will be all right. We have to believe.”

Besides causing the death of more than 7,000 people, the earthquake destroyed several temples in the Unesco-certified Durbar Squares.

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