Tourism entrepreneurs have demanded the government to establish tourist-friendly COVID-19 precaution measures in a bid to promote tourism in the autumn season.
The autumn season, which lasts from October to November in Nepal, is considered the best time for traveling as it is suitable for trekking, observing festivals, and bird watching, among other activities.
The entrepreneurs have demanded to provide on-arrival visa to fully vaccinated tourists and waive quarantine requirements for such visitors in order to revive the tourism sector.
Similarly, they have also asked the government to open border with India and promptly implement free one-month visa provision for tourists which was earlier announced by the government.
President of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO), Ashok Pokharel said the government had imposed prohibition on tourism overnight, but it hadn’t been courageous enough to relax the restrictions and reopen the sector hit hard by the pandemic.
He also accused the government of not being lenient in providing on-arrival visa to fully-vaccinated international tourists and those carrying PCR-negative reports.
“If the government takes a positive decision now, it will help bring adequate number of tourists around March when the next tourism season begins,” he added.
Dhananjay Regmi, the Chief Executive Officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said workers in hotels and tourism institutions, including public vehicle operators, are fully vaccinated in Nepal’s major tourism destinations.
“Nepal is safer than India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan in South Asia with low COVID infection rate and high recovery rate. The government should not put off lifting restrictions on tourists,” he added.
“If we have to revive our economy, we must provide on-arrival visa to fully vaccinated people and those carrying PCR-negative reports as Nepal doesn’t have diplomatic missions in all the countries.”
He added that Indian tour operators had been requesting them for the past four months to lift restrictions on tourists. “A lot of Indian tourists want to visit Nepal but they cannot come due to restrictions. Indian tour operators also sell Nepal packages to tourists from Gulf countries and could bring a sizeable number from Gulf countries as well so the government should allow Indian tourists to visit Nepal without any hassle,” he said.
Since Nepal is still listed in the ‘red zone’ of the international travel advisory, the tourism professionals have demanded that the government implement effective measures for removal of the country from the list.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal spokesperson Raj Kumar Chhetri said all the health protocols recommended by ICAO were being followed at airports in Nepal.
“USA is allowing fully-vaccinated people and people with PCR-negative report to travel freely. Nepal should also give on-arrival visa to fully-vaccinated people,” he said.
Director-General of Department of Immigration Narayan Prasad Bhattarai said the government was subjecting fully-vaccinated tourists to stay in three-day home quarantine. However, tourists who have not received shots against COV- ID-19, but have PCR-negative report are required to stay in hotel quarantine for 10 days. Those who are completely vaccinated also need to carry PCR-negative reports.
Meanwhile, the local level has brought a health desk into operation on the Manakamana temple premises in view of the risks of COVID-19.
The temple is recently reopened following a nearly four-month long prohibitory order enforced to curb the spread of coronavirus.
According to the chief of health section at Shahid Lakhan Rural Municipality, Birendra Shrestha, the famous religious shrine is reopened for the devotees since September 8.
“Since the temple priests and security personnel come in touch with devotees arriving at this shrine, all of them are at risk. Hence, we have been regularly conducting health check of the priests, security personnel and temple staffers,” said Shrestha.
There is at least one health worker at the health desk and he/she examines the devotees with symptoms of fever, flu and the like separately.
The temple was closed since May 6. The Temple Management Committee said that the devotees hand over their puja offerings to the priest through the outer window of the temple.