KATHMANDU, Feb 25: Rafting operators witnessing a decline in business till last year are hopeful of recovery this season, thanks to the growing interest among domestic tourists in adventure tourism.
The operators said bookings for domestic tourists have doubled this year. The number of domestic tourists -- limited to 10 percent of the total rafters a year ago -- has grown remarkably.
Mahendra Singh Thapa who operates Equator Expedition said market share of Nepali tourists was likely to cross 40 percent mark this season. “The number of Nepali rafters was almost negligible till a few years back,” said Thapa who hosted around 700 tourists last year.
Nani Kaji Thapa, president of Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA), who also operates Asian Adventure, said bookings for the upcoming season are likely to get higher due to growing interest among domestic tourists in rafting.
However, he complained of the ongoing construction of dams in rivers permitted by the government for rafting. Thapa said 4-5 day long rafting in Bhotekoshi, Karnali and Kali Gandaki was shortened to two days.
According to NARA, more than 100,000 people enjoyed rafting in Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011. Of them 30 percent were domestic tourists. “The number of domestic tourists is likely to go up this season,” added Thapa.
There are more than 50 agents offering rafting service. Operators charge $30-75 to foreign tourists and Rs 1,500 to 2,000 to domestic tourists for the service.
Chandra Dahal of Eco Nepal Adventure echoed Thapa adding that there has been a remarkable growth in the number of Chinese tourists.
Operators said increasing pollution was also a matter for concern. “We have to check pollution in our rivers and maintain political stability to attract foreign tourists,” added Dahal.