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Investor confidence reaches new high as Chitwan tourism rebounds

Investor confidence reaches new high as Chitwan tourism rebounds
Investments are flowing into construction of hotels in Chitwan in an indication of rising investor confidence in the local tourism industry. Situated in the lush tropical plains of southern Nepal, Chitwan attracts safari goers with its rich wildlife and thick jungles.

The end of the conflict has seen adventure seekers flocking to its jungle resorts and lodges, prompting investors to sink money into new hotel projects. According to the estimates of the Regional Chapter of Hotel Association Nepal, recent investments in hotels and resorts have reached more than Rs 20 billion.

Entrepreneurs are seeing opportunities in the hotel industry due to record high occupancy rates, said hoteliers. The growing willingness of banks to finance hotel projects has also motivated investors, they added. Providing funding to the tourism sector was not in the priority list of banks last year.

Growing interest in travel among middle class Nepalese and a surge in arrivals from emerging economies have fuelled a boom in investments in the hotel industry. According to the association, small hotels have invested around Rs 50 million while big hotels have pumped in up to Rs 1.50 billion.

Chitwan has been witnessing fierce competition in the development of hotels in recent years. However, industry insiders said that a decline in tourist numbers this year had raised concerns among entrepreneurs.

Since October last year, Nepal has been witnessing a gradual fall in visitor arrivals. In the first seven months of 2013, air arrivals slumped 3.5 percent to 320,989 largely due to a drop in Indian and European arrivals.

One of the most talked about upcoming properties is the Hotel Green Park in Baghmara. Construction of the hotel started three years ago, and it is in the final stages of completion. Plush interiors and an impressive garden are its appealing features, said visitors.

Ajay Neupane said the hotel looked no less than a five-star property. It boasts three dozen deluxe rooms, honeymoon suites and swimming pool. “The suites have been specially decorated to attract holidaying couples,” said the hotel.

A few years ago, air conditioned rooms and seminar halls were enough to pull in guests. However, with visitor interest shifting and rising competition among investors, the hotels are becoming fancier. Old hotels too are being refurbished, they have introduced added facilities to attract visitors. Narayan Bhattarai, president of the association, said old hotels were forced to go for renovation after finding it difficult to compete with new properties.

Meanwhile, a number of new tour packages have been developed to add to the regular jungle safaris. Mini casinos, massage parlors and spas are the latest attractions. An increase in the number of hotels has also led to more restaurants and shops in the area. Elephant safaris and camel rides are the main tours offered by hotels.

In the last three years, 20 new hotels have been constructed in Sauraha. Another 10 hotels are under construction. There are 100 hotels in the area, among which 85 are in operation.

Besides Sauraha, other regions in the district have also witnessed construction of new hotels and resorts. Luxury hotels are being built on the banks of the Rapti and Narayani rivers. New properties have been sprouting along the river corridors. Patihani, Jagatpur, Sukranagar and Meghauli are other centers of attraction for investors.

Jungle Villa, Eco Wildlife, Machan Wildlife Resort and Tiger Land Safari are the popular resorts in Jagatpur which account for a combined investment of Rs 200 million.

Hotel Tirupati in Pulchok, Chitwan, started operations in mid-July. It was constructed with an investment of Rs 20 million. The Royal Century has been upgraded. Alongside the construction spree in Sauraha, 10 new hotels and resorts are under construction in Chitwan and Gaidakot in Nawalparasi.

The growing competition has given tourists more choices of accommodation. In the past, visitors used to stay mostly in Sauraha, now they are spreading out to other places in the district. Meanwhile, a dip in arrivals has spread concern among entrepreneurs. Bhattarai said the area used to witness a large number of tourists even during the off season. “However, this year there were fewer visitors during the monsoon.” Besides building lavish hotels, entrepreneurs have been engaged in tree plantation, road maintenance and construction of parking lots.

Meanwhile, a tourism development master plan has been formulated to give a boost to the tourism sector here. “The master plan which will run for the next five decades has earmarked Rs 5.2 million for tree plantation,” said Shankar Sainju, former president of the association. “Hotels will be contributing Rs 1 million to the greenery initiative.”

Entrepreneurs said that the master plan should attract more visitors and encourage them to prolong their stay in Chitwan.

source: the kathmandu post

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