12-18 February 2016 #795

Pokhara's hidden secrets

There is much more to Pokhara than just Pokhara
Smriti Basnet in KASKI  

Nestled in the verdant hills overlooking the Begnas and Rupa Lake, away from the bustle of Pokhara city, is Rupakot Resort. The tranquility and panoramic view of the Annapurna sets the hotel apart from the other tourist places here.

Operations Manager Sudhan Adhikari says the fuel crisis led to the fall in numbers – number of visitors is down by 70 per cent. But, the blockade might have just exposed an existing problem that had been lying dormant for some time. 

With the exception of Pokhara, the Kaski region has failed to grow as a popular tourist destination despite its vast potential. Home to The Royal Trek - named after Prince Charles for his 1983 hike - the region offers bird watching, cultural walks and just last week, nine more lakes in the region were promoted on the illustrious Ramsar list.

“We have potential, but not much effort has been made by the government to make people aware of this place,” says Arjun Parajuli, General Manager of the Begnas Lake Resort and Villas.

Ironically, the official neglect and islolation has protected the pristine beauty of Pokhara's periphery. Biplab Paudel, proprietor of Barahi Hotel in Pokhara, agrees that better infrastructure would help boost tourism here.

“What is the government’s responsibility? To make roads. But look at Phulbari Resort, Rupakot Resort and the road access. Why would others invest in places with no infrastructure?” laments Paudel. 

Chief District Officer of Kaski, Hari Prasad Parajuli says efforts are being made: “There is road access to Rupakot. It has just not been asphalted yet.”

In 2014, the town of Lekhnath in Kaski introduced tax incentives to attract hotel investors. “If we had invested the same amount of money in building a hotel in the city, it would have been a 5-star property,” says Parajuli. 

Now that the blockade is over, there is hope that visitor numbers will pick up. Shangri-La Resort had signed on to bring its business to the area, but plans came to a halt due to the fuel crisis. The project is slated to commence soon.

Laxmi Prasad Tripathi, President of Lekhnath Chamber of Commerce, is hopeful that the region will become more investor friendly in the future. He says with the end of the blockade and improving road conditions, the region can still make up for its losses. “If more hotels are to come up, the future looks bright for the region,” he says. 

Tripathi has also been working to improve the conditions of home stays in the region under his firm’s 'Ek Jilla, Ek Utpadan' initiative. It hopes to rehabilitate ten houses this year in Sundari Dada and Pachbhaiya, on top of the seven from last year, to attract tourists.

Still, the region needs a bigger push to make it more tourist-friendly, and is looking for help from state funds. “For any place to come up as a tourist destination it should be attractive, have amenities and be accessible,” says Paudel. “The government should take responsibility for it and allocate accordingly.”

Paudel knows that the development of Kaski will take time, but he is patient. “It took almost 60 years for us to get this far,” says Paudel. “Pokhara was not built in a day.”