Nepal’s mountain tourism threatens to collapse

Namche Bazaar in the Everest region depends on tourism

The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) is sounding the alarm. “The crisis is deepening and set to get even worse,” NMA president Santa Bir Lama told the Kathmandu-based newspaper The Himalayan Times: “It seems that there will be no trekking and mountaineering activities in the upcoming autumn or winter season and thousands of people, who depend on tourism activities and products, will be unable to make their daily ends meet.” More than 3,500 travel and 2,600 trekking agencies have closed their operation due to the nationwide lockdown, he said.

No more income

Trekking in the Khumbu region

Lama’s predecessor as NMA head, Ang Tshering Sherpa, had also recently warned – as reported – of the collapse of mountain tourism in Nepal. According to him, around 80 percent of bookings for the coming autumn have been canceled. If, after the spring season, which was completely canceled due to the lockdown, foreign tourists were now to stay away in fall too, many of the Nepalese expedition operator and trekking agencies would be faced with bankruptcy. Not to mention the thousands of guides and porters who, as freelancers, depend on being booked by the agencies. It would also get tight for the owners of lodges, restaurants or shops in the regions around Mount Everest and Co.

No government aid program yet

Tourist district Thamel in Kathmandu (in 2016)

In Nepal, the call for state aid is becoming louder at increasingly shorter intervals. Tourism entrepreneurs have suggested to the government to use the budget originally intended for “Visit Nepal 2020” – the advertising campaign was discontinued due to the pandemic – to boost domestic tourism. Others proposed to defer loan payments until the crisis is over.

The government has so far been reluctant to act, but at the same time thin-skinned when criticized. Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, for example, condemned the announcement by the Nepalese hotel association HAN to shut the hotels they represent by mid-November and to pay the employees 12.5 percent of their wages as rash: “The government is aware which sectors are suffering due to the crisis and will make efforts to address them.” But this hasn’t yet happened after all.

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