May 9: Mountain tourism is booming in Nepal amid the surge in coronavirus (Covid-19) infection and the ongoing restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus. More mountaineers have arrived in Nepal during the ongoing pandemic than in 2019. Likewise, royalty collection has also increased by 50 percent. However, tourism entrepreneurs complain that they are facing obstruction on movement. The lack of coordination among government agencies has forced the tourism agencies to suffer.
Tourism agencies affiliated to the Department of Tourism have been given passes to transport tourists from the airport to hotels and other destinations. However, the administration does not recognize the department's pass and detained the visitors hours.
Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association (EOA) Nepal, an umbrella organization of mountaineering entrepreneurs, said that the vehicles of tourism agencies often get stopped while they are on their way to pick up tourists. This leaves a bad impression on the tourists, says Parajuli.
"This has increased the risk of losing the trust of tourists," Parajuli added. "There is no problem in carrying tourists to their destinations and hotels, but those who go to pick them up are tortured."
According to him, about 750 climbers have come to Nepal so far. He complained that the administration officials did not facilitate the movement despite showing the pass provided by the ministry and the department. In the current situation, 50 percent more royalties have been collected than in the corresponding period of 2019. However, Parajuli accused the government of not providing any assistance to the businessmen and agencies trying to revive tourism.
Now that the entire tourism sector has collapsed, mountain tourism has brought some glimmer of hope.
Parajuli says that the administration needs to help in facilitating the movement of tourists as soon as possible. An official of the department also said that the businessmen and agencies were saddened by the non-cooperation of the administration even though the department provided them pass.
"Even in such a difficult time, tourists are willing to come by chartering a plane and the authorities shouldn't discourage the tourists," the official said requesting anonymity.
The district administration offices in several districts have issued prohibitory orders due to the unprecedented surge in coronavirus infection. However, the government has not stopped giving permits for mountaineering and collecting royalties. The department had been issuing permits for climbing Mt Everest till May 7.
Stating that the government should stop the issuance of permits and collection of royalties, one entrepreneur said, “They don't want to stop collecting royalties but are creating obstacles in the movement of representatives of tourism agencies. This is not practical.”
According to the department, citizens of 78 countries are now allowed to climb various mountains and peaks in Nepal. There was zero mountaineering in the spring of 2020, but so far this season, 742 people from 85 climbing teams have taken permission for climbing different mountains.
According to the department, most of them have got permission to climb Mt Everest. A total of 408 people have got permission to climb Mt Everest. On May 7 alone, 12 Nepali Sherpas completed the ascent of Everest for fixing ropes.
Record-breaking climber Kamirita Sherpa broke his own record by successfully climbing Mt Everest for the 25th time.