More than fifty days since the massive earthquake struck the region, the Nepalese government reopened areas of its Kathmandu Unesco World Heritage sites and declared the nation reopen to overseas visitors from Monday.
The world heritage sites like Basantapur durbar square, Patan durbar square and Bhaktapur durbar square, Swoyambhunath, Bouddhanath and the Pashupatinath temple, which are the symbols of country's history and culture have been opened and considered safe.
When the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripashur Sherpa formally re-opened the heritage sites, announcing "Nepal is open for tourists," the mood of the nation, particularly those in the tourism industry, palpably lifted.
"We want to tell the world that Nepal is safe and we are open for tourists. We want to appeal to people to visit Nepal to see our unity in adversity and the socio-cultural solidarity. Visit us to help us rebuild," Minister Sherpa said at an address in Bhaktapur durbar square.
On the reopening day, the scene of the ancient and historical Bhaktapur looked different with most of the monuments destroyed. There also used to be around 800 foreign tourists every day in Bhaktapur durbar square, located some 12 kilometers east from Kathmandu.
But it is unfortunate for this small Himalayan nation that a single tourist could not be found in the area on the morning of June 15.
These major attractions of the capital were extensively damaged by the April 25 and May 12 disasters. These places were immediately prohibited for tourists and even for the public for a few weeks after the disaster.
A total of 741 ancient sites including temples, sattal, matha, old palaces and the like were destroyed, including complete and partial damage in the quake.
However, at a time when tourist-related businesses are claiming that around 99 percent of hotel bookings have been canceled until September, the opening of these heritage sites has provided a new hope to the revival of their businesses.
Birendra Shrestha, Guest Relation Officer at Patan Museum Cafe located inside the Patan durbar square premise told Xinhua, "The government should promote Nepal saying that it is a safe destination, so that we can get tourists to visit from next season. Otherwise we have to wait for another season with zero business."
The cafe that used to cater to innumerable tourists in recent history served only 7 customers on Sunday, the opening day after the April 25 quake.
The government has been claiming that there are many reasons to visit Nepal as airports are fine, flights are on time, more than 90 percent of hotels are safe, major highways are operational and there are a lot of places for tourists to visit.
But, the number of tourists visiting Nepal for pleasure or adventure continues to be flat. Two Swedish tourists who are employees by Turkish Airlines were found roaming and clicking pictures in Patan durbar square this afternoon.
"We just landed in Kathmandu four hours ago and came straight here. We could not see many differences because people are happy here all the time. We like this part of Nepal and its people,"they shared with Xinhua.
As per the statistics provided by the Immigration Department, there were 69,286 tourists in Nepal in May, 2014 whereas the number lessened to 40,856 in May, 2015.
These foreigners visited Nepal even after the earthquake but only for search, rescue, relief and research purposes.
Tourism is one of the pillars of the economy of Nepal but it is the worst-hit sector with an economic loss of Rs 81.24 billion ( about 790 million U.S. dollars). It is also one of the largest employment generating industries in Nepal which collects a sizable portion of revenue for the government. Mountain climbing and trekking is the most profitable tourism sector.
CN Pandey, a travel and tour operator and owner of the Landmark Hotel told Xinhua, "I am hopeful that it will take around four months for the initial recovery and around a year to bring the full business back on track. But there must be strong marketing plans and promotional strategies to bring the tourists back."
The hotel entrepreneurs are of the view that they also need some assistance from the government like soft loans for rebuilding and operation and lessening of bank interest rates to reduce the financial burden.
According to the government's post disaster needs assessment PDNA) report this sector requires Rs 41.33 billion (400 U.S. dollars)for reconstruction and rebuilding.
The government on Sunday has also formed a high-level national recovery committee to promote tourism activities in the post-quake era under the leadership of the tourism minister.
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