POKHARA: Lakeside area of Pokhara - a popular hangout for tourists - used to wear a deserted look in the last week of December before Pokhara Street Festival began 16 years ago. Foreign tourists would return to their country to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Tourism entrepreneurs also used to visit Goa, Bangkok or other cities for New Year celebration.
But things are no longer the same. Tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara are busy welcoming foreign as well as Nepalis in the lake city. Hotel rooms are packed and restaurants are teeming with tourist.
Pokhara Street Festival is turning bigger with every passing year. Number of foreign tourists visiting Pokhara for the event is also increasing.
Senior tourism entrepreneur Ganesh Bahadur Bhattarai has seen the evolution of street festival closely. "Sixteen years ago, we used to see only a handful of foreign tourists in Pokhara at this time of year. The situation has changed now. Hotels are full with foreign tourists. Number of domestic tourists too is increasing," he added. "The street festival has become successful in stopping foreign tourists to go elsewhere for Christmas and New Year celebration."
Bhattarai also said the event has helped to increased tourist´s length of stay in Pokhara. "Sixteen years ago, Nepalis were not treated as tourists. Today tourism entrepreneurs are competing with each other to welcome domestic tourists," he added. According to Bhattarai, 60 percent of the total tourists staying in Pokhara for New Year celebration are Nepalis. Gopi Bhattarai, president of Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (Reban) Pokhara, said Christmas, New Year and the street festival have lured many Nepalis to Pokhara.
Surya Bahadur Bhujel, chairman of Pokhara Tourism Council, agreed with Bhattarai. "Large number of Nepalis, particularly youngsters, are celebrating New Year with gusto. It is helping domestic tourism to flourish in Pokhara