Thamel to now focus on domestic visitorsBusinesses should provide affordable services, but not compromise on standards, experts say.
Although the Kathmandu district administration allowed night businesses in Thamel to resume last month, the once happening place still wears a deserted look, and entrepreneurs are incurring heavy losses.
Now, with the looming threat of the new and more contagious variant of coronavirus spreading around the world, business owners in Thamel doubt foreign tourists will return a year or two.
Keeping this in mind, Thamel Tourism Development Council, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, and tourism entrepreneurs have decided to work together to promote domestic tourism in the area.
“Most Nepalis think that Thamel is only for tourists,” said Rajeshwor Gyawali, chief administrative officer at Kathmandu Metropolitan City. “But that is not the case, and we want to show that to the local people,” said Gyawali.
Under the initiative, Thamel is to be rebranded as an affordable and safe place to hang out and even stay at night, officials say. Local businesses are to provide their products and services at discounted rates for domestic tourists.
“The idea is to make Thamel a centre of attraction for local people. We are already coordinating with the local government and entrepreneurs to do so,” said Bhabishwor Sharma, vice-president of the council.
Before the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March last year, Thamel used to see around 3,000 tourists every day. While some came for shopping, and others came to experience the place. According to the Nepal Tourism Board, 80 percent of tourists who come to Nepal visit Thamel, where thousands of people work in businesses serving tourists before they return home.
The council’s report shows that of the 10,000 businesses in Thamel, over 700 shut down last year. According to the Covid-19 Tourism Business Disaster Committee’s report, 270 travel and tour agencies, clothing shops, curio shops, restaurants, and hotels have shut down as of July.
“Around 80,000 people who worked in Thamel are jobless now. Thamel can survive only if we attract domestic visitors,” said Gyawali.
Kishor Thapa, a former government secretary, and an urban planning expert, who was also secretary at the tourism ministry during Tourism Year 2011, said the plan to attract domestic visitors to Thamel is a good idea. “But they should be able to win the confidence of people. Hoteliers should provide affordable rooms with hygienic food,” said Thapa.
He, however, said that the hotels should not compromise on their standards.” They should roll out new ideas, keep the area clean and improve the safety of the place so that visitors are comfortable to go there,” said Thapa.