Hotels in Bhairahawa reopen as domestic tourists come backMany owners used the pandemic downtime to expand their properties and upgrade the facilities.
Hotels in Bhairahawa are reopening as domestic tourists begin to emerge out of their coronavirus hibernation, encouraged by signs that the pandemic is on the wane.
All hotels, lodges, guest houses and resorts were forced to shut down after the federal government imposed a lockdown in March last year. And even after the stay-home order was withdrawn in July, they continued to remain closed as provincial governments enforced their own restrictions.
Hundreds of employees suffered layoffs when the hotels went offline. In Bhairahawa, hotel owners used the prolonged downtime to expand their properties and upgrade the facilities.
New hotels were also built. More than 20 big hotels came up in Rupandehi district during the pandemic. There was a flurry of new constructions in Lumbini, Bhairahawa, Butwal and Devadaha.
A three-star property the Hotel De Flamingo came into operation last week at Yogikuti, Rupandehi. Spread over 10 katthas, entrepreneur Dilip Gauchan and Shyam Sherchan have invested Rs200 million in the hotel.
The Hotel De Flamingo offers 39 guest rooms, two restaurants and a swimming pool, said Gauchan. "We brought it into operation while still under construction due to the pressure of well-wishers and friends," he said. “Even though the tourism sector was badly hit by the pandemic, we are providing services to attract domestic tourists,” he added. At present, 40 people are employed in the hotel.
Hotel Madani and Restaurant opened in mid-November last year. Located between Butwal and Bhairahawa, it was constructed with an investment of Rs900 million. "We are providing services that are suitable for both domestic and international tourists. We have affordable packages for domestic tourists," said Maina Subedi, proprietor of the hotel.
"The 16 rooms have been categorised into super deluxe, deluxe and standard rooms," she said.
Another hotel that has opened in the Bhairahawa-Butwal region is the Hotel Hidden Palace. Operator Bhuvan Sharma Khanal said the hotel, which also features a conference hall and restaurant, was built at a cost of Rs170 million. It is located at Bhalwari, Tilottama-7 and has targeted Indian tourists and travellers passing through Gautam Buddha International Airport.
"The Hidden Palace offers 34 well-appointed rooms, including two deluxe junior suites, nine queen beds and 23 twin-beds," he said. “We are moving towards completing the construction of an all-day dining restaurant, seminar hall, 360-degree view tower, dome house, swimming pool and bakery,” he said.
The hotel was slated to open in time for Visit Nepal Year 2020, but it launched by hosting domestic tourists as the promotion campaign was cancelled due to the virus, Khanal said. "A health club, gym house and fun park will be constructed so there will be new facilities for guests to enjoy during the Nepali New Year," he added.
The Hotel Hidden Palace provided direct employment to 37 people and will create 100 new jobs when it goes into full-fledged operation.
Khanal said that the hotel would prioritise Nepali produced goods. The movement of Indian tourists through the border transit point will be eased compared to before, he said. "We are also providing package services to Lumbini, Pokhara and Kathmandu as per the choice of tourists and the facility has become effective," Khanal said. He said three groups had taken the package tours after Covid-19.
Pawan Palace, the first five-star hotel in the international tourist destination of Lumbini, is now in operation. Spread over 3.5 bighas in Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality-9, the posh property was built by Pawan Haluwai and Rajiv Beriwal at a cost of Rs2 billion.
The construction of the seven-storey hotel and other structures was completed in four years. Haluwai, operator of the hotel, said 70 out of its 147 rooms and a restaurant were ready. The construction of a swimming pool is now being completed, he said.
"The investment is increasing and we are incurring losses as the tourists have not come back to Lumbini," he said. "The hotel was constructed with an eye on the airport and pilgrims coming to visit Lumbini, and we expect arrivals to swell as the flow of domestic visitors is continuing."
He said they did not think the Covid-19 pandemic would last for such a long time, and that there was no alternative but to wait and watch.
Haluwai is confident that the hotel will have full occupancy once tourists start arriving with the opening of the international airport. The hotel building is built to reflect Nepali originality, while the interior design is from Singapore.
The four-star Hotel Nirvana in Bhairahawa has added 25 new rooms for domestic tourists.
"The expectation of the hotel is to host foreign tourists because it is difficult to operate a hotel with domestic tourists only," said Sunil Shrestha. Domestic tourists are provided with reduced rates, he added.
The Bodhi Redson, a well-known four-star hotel in Siddharthnagar, is getting bookings for its conference hall to hold local events. "No foreign tourists have come after Covid-19," said Sudhir Dubedi, public relations officer at the hotel.
He said that hotels could operate by fully following safety protocols, but tourists are not being allowed to come to the country. The Bodhi Redson was built at a great cost encouraged by the construction of an international airport in Bhairahawa, but an entire year has gone by with no tourists, he said.
More than 1,100 hotels are currently in operation in Rupandehi district, according to hotel related organisations. Besides these properties, there are more than 600 other hotels that are not members of any hotel association.
The Maurya Paschiman, a three-star hotel located at Naya Sadak in Bhairahawa, has opened with the objective of earning a name as a modern hotel in the western region. Owner Ram Bahadur Koiri has spent Rs500 million to build the hotel which is six stories tall and offers 10 suites and 43 super deluxe rooms.
“We are waiting for tourists by offering them pick and drop facilities,” Koiri said. "The business has grown a little compared to before. There is no alternative but to wait for tourists from India and other countries."
The Dreamland Gold Resort in Tilottama has been keeping busy by hosting local events. Operator Gopal Rana said that programmes of different organisations were being regularly held after the lockdown.
"However, since the airport has not come into operation and the border is still closed, we have the same problems as during the lockdown,” he said. A few programmes are being held in the day time, he added. With the rise in temperature, Rana expects an increase in the arrival of tourists coming to enjoy the swimming pool.
Hotel Nansc, which has been operating as a three-star hotel since its inception, is now preparing to upgrade to a four-star property.
CP Shrestha, operator of the hotel and president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association, said that final preparations were being made to make the hotel more convenient.
"Our business would have flourished if the construction of the airport was completed on time, and the restrictions at the border were removed," he said. "We are eager to get back to the old rhythm. We have been trying to shift from being hopeless to hopeful as there has been no work for one year,” he said.