7-13 March 2014 #697

No fly zone

Kedar Dahal, Karobar, 4 March

Air ticket reservations for the spring trekking season in Nepal have taken a severe blow after the European Union blacklisted Nepal-based airlines in December 2013. A delegation from the EU audited local airline operators and Civil Aviation Authority Nepal (CAAN) last year after raising concerns over the country’s abysmal safety record for the first time in 2012. Following the directive, all 28 countries have warned their citizens to avoid flying Nepali airlines.

According to tour operators, reservations for trekking and city tours have decreased by 20 per cent. “Bookings for the Everest circuit have witnessed the biggest fall,” says Ramesh Dhamala, President of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal.  

Hotel reservations were close to 90 per cent during mid-March to May last year, but they are now down to a mere 35 per cent. “Tourism prospects were looking better after the November elections, but the EU ban will harm us in the long-term,” admits Prakash Shrestha, former president of Hotel Association Nepal, who also runs Machan Wildlife Resort in Chitwan. Shrestha feels that last month’s Nepal Airlines twin otter crash in Arghakhanchi (pic, above) might have further aggravated the situation. He hopes the government and concerned authorities will take immediate action to address the present aviation crisis and prevent the further decline of tourism in Nepal.

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