Although the Nepal earthquake did not hit Chitwan National Park, one of the country’s premier destinations and a haven for rare animals, it hit the tourism industry here hard.
At 11:56 local time on April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Lamjung District, northwest of Kathmandu. Chitwan is 69.8 kilometers away from the earthquake epicenter, and was not affected by the earthquake. “I felt nothing when the earthquake happened,” said Ram Singh Chaudhary, 40, a jungle guide and employee of Green Mansions Resort in Chitwan. Other sources in the area said there were minor tremors on April 25th, but no damage to infrastructure.
Despite the lack of effect from the earthquake, tourism in the area nosedived after April 25th. According to Chaudhary, there were over two hundred reservations at his hotel before the earthquake, and they were all canceled right after it happened. “We felt quite nervous about that situation,” said Chaudhary.
Usually, April and May are busy months for tourism in Nepal, until the rainy season comes. Even in off-season, there are a number of travelers. According to a number of guides, hotel managers, and people working in the tourism industry, a group of journalists visiting the area were the first foreign visitors since April.
Near Chitwan, there are a number of shops selling souvenirs like Nepalese style hand-made earrings, plates and bags. Bisho Chaudhary, one of the shop owners said there were hundreds of people each day coming here in high season. However, only around five or six people walked into his shop per day in the days after the earthquake. Sometimes, there were no tourists at all.
Ishwari Parkhare, another shop owner selling alcohol and snacks, said his shop has been unprofitable for two months. Because the site of the shop lies on a corner, his rent is higher than other shops around it. “It is really a hard time,” he said, In September and October, high tourist season will return to Nepal. Neel Paudyal, another shop owner, said he hoped the situation would change at that time — but he had his doubts. “Honestly, I am not that optimistic about it,” he said, laughing.