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Empty hotels in Sri Lanka and Nepal point to lengthy economic hit

Coronavirus threatens South Asia's vital tourism industry

Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage site seen here in this March 25 photo, is deserted following the lockdown in Kathmandu.   © Reuters

COLOMBO/KATHMANDU -- Tourism-dependent South Asian countries are bracing for a severe slump this year, with hotels facing sharp falls in occupancy as governments limit travelers' movements to curb the new coronavirus epidemic.

"The coronavirus outbreak hit us at a time when we [were] expecting a tremendous growth in the sector. Now [tourism] has ground to a near standstill," said Shreejana Rana, president of Hotel Association Nepal, a 270-member trade group. "It seems like it will have an adverse impact on us for the whole year." While hotels need to be at least 40% full to stay in business, the occupancy rate is below 10% at the moment, Rana said.

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