The hope of the Nepalese tourism industry for the upcoming fall season in trekking and mountaineering is fading away. After the government in Kathmandu had postponed the planned resumption of flights to and within Nepal from 17 August to 1 September 1, it announced a few days ago that the number of people entering the Himalayan state would be limited to 500 per day. Only Nepalese who were stuck in other countries because of the corona pandemic, expats, diplomats and employees of international aid organizations would be allowed to enter the country. There was no mention of foreign tourists in the government’s announcement. They will have to stay out until further notice.
Most expeditions canceled
Whether and when domestic flights – for example to Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region – will be permitted again, remained open. Overland travel is also not possible for the time being, as journeys through various districts are still prohibited.
In Nepal, more than 33,500 corona cases have been registered so far (as of 25 August), 164 people died of COVID-19. The number of new infections remains high. Against this background, it is not surprising that most expedition operators have canceled their eight-thousander expeditions originally announced for this autumn.
Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), told the Kathmandu Post that for every foreign mountaineer there are three to five jobs for locals: “Many who depend on mountaineering have been hit hard by the cancelation of the spring climbing season, and if the autumn climbing season gets canceled, many people will be in financial ruin.”
Fear of starvation
About 1,500 trekking agencies and more than 10,000 mountaineers are currently registered at the NMA. For many of them it might be a matter of bare survival. Ang Tshering Sherpa, long-time NMA president and founder of the expedition operator Asian Trekking, puts it in a nutshell: “The fear of starvation is more pronounced than the fear of disease at this time of crisis.”