Maoist stir puts tourists in a fix


KATHMANDU – Entrepreneurs, as well as tourists, have expressed serious concern about the nationwide agitation planned by the main opposition party, UCPN-Maoist. The UCPN-M’s agitation that begins tomorrow aims to restore civilian supremacy in the country and threatens to paralyse government secretariats and affect flights at TIA, country’s only international airport.

John, 23, who arrived here from London with his family and friends two days ago, is planning to cancel city tour set for Tuesday.

“Let’s see, what happens in the next two days in the Capital. I had no idea about the upcoming Maoist stir,” he said, adding that they wanted peace but not turmoil here. “I decided to visit Nepal after my father described the flora and fauna, as well as the hospitality of the Nepali people.”

Most of the tourists are concerned about the Maoist plan to halt air services at the Tribhuwan International Airport. “Tourists, who plan to visit Nepal, ask us whether the Maoists could seize the airport or not,” a Thamel-based hotelier said.

Zim Davis arrived here two weeks ago. “We came to know about the Maoist agitation from the media,” he told this daily. Davis said he and his wife would return to California tomorrow.

Most of the star hotels are booked. Tourist hubs are also packed with foreigners. According to entrepreneurs, country has not seen so many foreign tourists since the Visit Nepal Year-1998. Late autumn (October-November) is considered the peak tourism season in the country. The country will mark 2011 as Nepal Tourism Year.

Suman Pandey, CEO of Fishtail Air, asked the parties to be serious about protecting the tourism sector that has been propping the country’s economy.
Ashok Pokharel, MD, Shangri-La Tours, fears that the agitation might cause a serious disruption in parts of the country. Foreigners were making phone calls asking whether to cancel booking, he said. “We don’t know what to tell them,” he said.

However, Dinanath Sharma, spokesperson for the UCPN-Maoist, claimed that their agitation would be peaceful. There will be no restriction on tourists visiting the countryside, he added.

Meanwhile, the US continued with a travel warning issued in May, saying political violence remains a problem in Nepal.