Thai flood impact: Lumbini hotels face booking cancellations

The impact of the ongoing flooding in Thailand is also being felt in Nepal. Hoteliers here say Thai visitors have started canceling their bookings.

The devastating floods that began at the end of July have already claimed at least 373 lives and are expected to cost the Thai economy over $6 billion, according to media reports.

The catastrophe forced many Thai tourists to cancel their trips to Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. “We have started receiving cancellation of bookings from Thai visitors,” said Pawan Halwai, proprietor of Hotel Pawan International, in Bhairahawa.

Along with Pawan International, Hotel Nirvana, Nans, Hotel New Crystal, Kasai, Hokke, Bamboo Resort and Buddhamaya, including dozens of other hotels, are also receiving booking cancellations.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said Thai tourists visit Nepal mainly during the October-March period. And, November is the peak season when a large number of Buddhist pilgrims from Thailand visit Lumbini. Tourism entrepreneurs are worried that their business might slump significantly if the trend continues.

With a large number of hotels depending on Thai pilgrims, a dramatic dip in their numbers has worried travel trade entrepreneurs here. “We have to bear over 70 percent loss if arrivals from Thailand do not recover,” said Kundan Bajracharya, manager of Hotel Nirvana.

Of the total Buddhist pilgrims visiting Lumbini, 70 percent are from Thailand. Until a few years ago, Thai visitors used to account for 90 percent of the total arrivals here, but their share is decreasing due to increased arrivals from China, Vietnam, Korea and Sri Lanka. Bajracharya said cancellation of a number of international flights through the Bangkok route contributed to the reduction in the number of Thai visitors.

According to the Immigration Office Belahiya, over 15,000 Thai tourists entered Nepal via Sunauli-Belahiya border point, against 20,259 in the entire last year.