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“Post-Dashain, Domestic Tourists Flock to Pokhara, Many Focused on Trekking”

October 16, Pokhara: Mohan Bhandari, who runs North Nepal Travel and Treks, is exceptionally busy this season. Many of his agency’s clients are eager to take their friends on treks.

“Since COVID, it’s become a trend for Nepalese to travel and go trekking. After Dashain, it’s all about trekking with friends,” says Bhandari. He believes this trend will continue, even beyond Dashain.

According to Bhandari, this year, most Nepali travelers are heading to destinations close to Pokhara, such as Mardi and Khumjung trekking routes. Foreign tourists, on the other hand, are more interested in the Manaslu and Annapurna circuits.

The Korchang-Mardi trek, previously known as the “Explore” route, has seen a sudden surge in domestic trekkers. It’s a short hike from Pokhara, offering stunning views from Machhapuchhre to Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and the southern part of Pokhara.

Khumbu’s popular routes, including Everest Base Camp, have also attracted a significant number of domestic trekkers, says Ram Gurung, an executive member of Machhapuchhre Rural Municipality. “Last year alone, more than 35,000 trekkers visited the area, which is higher than ever before. This year, we are expecting even more due to the accessibility of Khumjung trekking routes,” he adds.

The tourism industry’s prosperity is evident from the fully booked hotels in Pokhara, with occupancies reaching up to 60% shortly after Dashain. Hoteliers say that the business is booming in this season, surpassing their expectations.

“Tourists who visit the Gandaki region often transit through Pokhara. Even trekkers to Mustang and the Annapurna Circuit usually base themselves in Pokhara,” says Laxman Subedi, Chairman of the Western Region Hotel Association. According to him, Pokhara hotels have the capacity to accommodate up to 40,000 guests in a day. The recent influx has seen around 20,000 tourists daily in Pokhara, with 35% of them being foreign visitors.

Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) data shows that in October-November 2022, all-time high numbers of foreign tourists trekked in the Annapurna Sanctuary. In that season, over 4,555 trekkers reached the Annapurna Base Camp. However, in April-May 2023, during the traditional “peak season,” a record-breaking 4,583 trekkers visited the Annapurna Base Camp in just a few days. Among these trekkers, Germans are the majority.

Growth in the number of tourists, especially from the United States and Australia, has been reported by tourism entrepreneur Mohan Bhandari. In contrast, the number of tourists from India, who used to top the list in previous years, has decreased.

The increase in the number of tourists to the Annapurna region has also led to a decrease in available accommodation, impacting local businesses. “With tourists increasing, there’s a problem with the lack of available hotels and accommodations. The lodges and hotels are packed, especially during the season,” said Bhandari.

As the number of tourists continues to rise, the issue of housing them becomes more challenging. “With this increase in the number of tourists, there is a need for more accommodation facilities, especially in the Annapurna region,” adds Bhandari.

Tourism entrepreneur Ganesh Bahadur Thapa believes that the recent surge in foreign tourists could be short-lived. He calls it “side tourism” because people come and go quickly. He also points out that this type of tourism doesn’t contribute to long-term development and sustainability in the tourism sector.

Gurung also thinks that the government needs to come up with a long-term plan to encourage more domestic tourists to visit the country’s tourist destinations. “The current tourism trend seems like a flash in the pan. It’s good for short-term business, but it doesn’t help in the long run,” he emphasizes. “Nepal should not only be a place to visit but a place to stay.”

ALSO READ: “Bharatpur Prepares to Welcome Three Lakh Tourists in 2024”

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