CHITWAN, Oct 29: Though hoteliers in Sauraha are upbeat amid an impressive rise in overall tourist arrivals, a decline in the flow of domestic tourists, who account for the most number of customers for elephant safari, has pushed down business for elephant-ride operators.
Elephant safari operators said business has dropped by over 25 percent during the ongoing tourist season, compared to last year. Elephant ride centers at this gateway to Chitwan National Park wear a deserted look.
“Business was better in the last few days of Dashain because of domestic tourists, but their flow has again slowed,” Balaram Dahal, one of the elephant ride operators said.
Dahal, who is also president of one of the cooperatives which runs the elephant safari business, said except for a few days in Dashain the overall business has not been so satisfactory compared to last year.
During periods when tourists throng the elephant safari centres, one elephant has to complete up to seven safari trips a day.
“The number, however, is now limited to a maximum of five trips. Most elephants generally do two trips in the morning and two in the evening,” said Dahal.
Elephant safari is one of the most popular tourist activities in Sauraha, which is home to more than 75 big and small hotels. According to the hoteliers, most of the hotels are running in full occupancy.
“The tourist arrival figures are encouraging, with most of them foreigners.But the number of those going for elephant safari is not as impressive as the hotel occupancy figures,” said Suman Ghimire, general secretary of Regional Hotel Association, Chitwan .
The cooperatives usually provide elephant rides to the community forests in the buffer zone as they are not allowed inside the national park.