“Nonsense!” – “Rubbish!” – “What the hell?” This or similar is how representatives of the battered Nepalese trekking industry react in the social media to the regulations for mountain tourists, which have now been published by the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu and are thus binding for the fall season.
According to these regulations, every trekking tourist or mountaineer entering Nepal must present a negative corona test, which must not be older than 72 hours. Afterwards, the foreign guest has to stay in quarantine for at least seven days in a hotel in Kathmandu. On day five he must undergo another COVID-19 test – where, it is unclear. Only if this test is also negative, the tourist is allowed to leave the hotel two days later.
Besides the guest must have an insurance for at least 5,000 US dollars (about 4,280 euros) when entering the country – probably an international health insurance is meant. In addition, the expedition and trekking operators are required to insure each of their clients with 100,000 Nepalese rupees (about 730 euros) for the case of an infection with the COVID-19 virus. Only then permits will be issued.
More than 1000 new infections per day
Especially the one-week compulsory quarantine ignites the resentment of the industry. The operators ask: Which trekking tourist, who has only two or three weeks of vacation, is willing to sit down in the hotel for a week without doing anything despite a negative corona test? The question probably answers itself.
In any case, the willingness of tourists to travel to risk regions in the current corona situation is likely to keep within limits. According to the Johns Hopkins University in the USA, more than one million people worldwide have meanwhile died of COVID-19. In Nepal, more than 76,000 infections with the coronavirus have been registered so far (as of 29 September), 491 people have died from it. Since the beginning of September, more than 1,000 new infections per day have been registered almost continuously in the Himalayan state, this Tuesday even around 1,500. And the number of unreported cases is likely to be high.
For many agencies, it is all about existence
After the spring season had already completely collapsed due to the corona crisis, the dramatic situation in the tourism industry will probably not change this fall either, given the rules now announced. The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) currently has around 1,500 trekking agencies and more than 10,000 climbers registered. Many of them are threatened with ruin.
An expedition team from Bahrain, which is now acclimatizing in the Everest region and then wants to climb the eight-thousander Manaslu, as well as a Nepali expedition to the seven-thousander Baruntse scheduled for October are no more than drops in the ocean.
Update 2 October: “The Himalayan Times” newspaper reports with reference to an official of the Ministry of Tourism, that after the strong protests of the tourism industry, they are considering to waive the obligatory one-week hotel quarantine. Instead, an antigen test should be carried out directly at the airport. Let’s see what will happen!