February 2, 2023, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Entrepreneurs get disappointed as GBIA fails to bring tourists

The Nepal Weekly
August 2, 2022

It has been two months since Bhairahawa’s Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) came into operation but tourism entrepreneurs of Lumbini Province feel disappointed as the airport has not been able to bring in the expected number of visitors to the region. 

Businessmen who invested millions of rupees in establishing hotels and lodges are now regretting their decision because they fear they might not recover their money. “The airport only hosts three international flights a week and almost all the passengers in those flights are Nepalis,” states S.P. Shrestha, hotelier and president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association. “This has not benefited the tourism sector at all.”

Saying that many tourists came to Nepal from Delhi, Shrestha urged the government to begin flights between Bhairahawa and New Delhi, India, immediately.  Sagar Adhikari, Lumbini provincial president of the Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), asked the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to operate one flight per week between Delhi and Bhairahawa and said that such a flight would find enough passengers.

Tourism businessman Sanjay Bajimaya stressed that since the airport was built with the aim of bringing religious tourists, it was necessary for authorities to cooperate with the private sector and design special packages.

The entrepreneurs of the region have also sought help from Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jeevan Ram Shrestha, who is on his first trip to the province after assuming office, to take initiative to increase the number of flights at GBIA and operate it at full capacity. Similarly, Govinda Gyawali, president of the Lumbini Hotel Association, also called for the completed cargo building to be brought into operation and manage the garbage accumulated around Lumbini.

Minister Shrestha, for his part, has said that the airport’s present terminal is too small to allow it to operate at full capacity and informed that the government is planning to build another terminal building. 

He also claimed that many of the entrepreneurs’ concerns were addressed by his recently released 73-point plan and expressed commitment to incorporate any issues that it may have missed out.  Shrestha also said that NAC and Himalaya Airlines were in talks to begin flights from GBIA.

“The Ministry is considering a variety of ways to attract airlines to Bhairahawa including discounts and transit visa management,” he said, adding, “the purpose of this airport is to bring in more tourists to Lumbini and the government is serious about it.”

Siddhartha Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Bhishma Neupane said that budget needed to be allocated for the Bhairahawa-Lumbini monorail and an online gateway payment system required to be set up for tasks related to the tourism industry to promote tourism in the province. He also stressed on the need to set up an organised and modern immigration office at Belahiya checkpoint where most tourists coming to the country by land enter from. He also called concerned authorities to coordinate with airlines from Buddhist-majority countries to bring in visitors from there.