Tourism entrepreneurs call for international flight operation from Pokhara and Bhairahawa airports

Kathmandu: Tourism entrepreneurs from Pokhara and Bhairahawa are urging the government to promptly initiate international flights from Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) and Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA).

The appeal was made during a program organized in Bhairahawa on Saturday, a part of the ‘Jaaun Hai Pokhara’ campaign jointly conducted by the Hotel Association Pokhara and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). The campaign specifically targets cities in western Nepal to boost tourism.

Speakers at the event highlighted the significant challenge posed by the absence of international flights despite the operational status of these airports.

Laxman Subedi, President of Hotel Association Pokhara, expressed concern that the substantial investment in the airport had not translated into international flight operations. He urged the government to create a conducive environment for international flights at the earliest.

Pom Narayan Shrestha, Chairman of the Pokhara Tourism Council, asserted that the government was facing pressure to facilitate international flights from Pokhara’s new airport. He warned of potential protests if the demands were not addressed, emphasizing the Council’s solidarity in support of international flight operations.

Chandra Prakash Shrestha, President of Siddhartha Hotel Association, expressed disappointment that GBIA had not operated properly even 18 months after its inauguration. He mentioned ongoing efforts to exert pressure for regular international flights from the airport.

Kundan Mishra, a senior officer of NTB, provided insights into the structure, objectives, and activities of NTB. During the program, Rachana Pant, President of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) Gandaki, journalists Madhav Dhungana and Naresh KC, Ramu Joshi, Executive Officer of Tourism Development Council Lumbini, and others emphasized the importance of tourism partnerships between Pokhara and Lumbini. As part of the campaign, Hotel Association Pokhara unveiled various tourist packages under the Gandaki Province Ghumgham initiative.

These packages, encompassing Pokhara sightseeing, educational tours, Pokhara-Muktinath tours, and trekking packages, are priced between Rs 3,000 and Rs 26,000, covering hotel stays, meals, and sightseeing activities.

Deepak Shrestha, Vice President of Hotel Association Pokhara, emphasized the belief that internal tourism forms the foundation of sustainable tourism. The campaign includes Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi, and Mahendranagar, aiming to encourage tourism between the western region and Pokhara.

Rajendra Dhakal, General Secretary of the Hotel Association of Pokhara, highlighted the campaign’s role in revitalizing tourism disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The program also underscored significant employment opportunities, with 40,000 job positions in 1,200 hotels in Pokhara and 15,000 people employed in the tourism sector.