As Nepal is gearing up for Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, tourism entrepreneurs have lined up a series of adventure activities, aiming to cater to a game-changing number of foreign visitors.
--BY Tamish Giri
Mountain Biking Worldwide, one of the leading organisers of mountain biking events in Nepal, kicked-off the 2019 edition of the Yak Attack mountain biking race on the foothills of Annapurna from November 9. Twenty-five bikers from eleven countries attended the biking adventure that concluded on November 20 with a dizzying climb of 5,416 meters to the top of Thorang-La pass. Cory Wallace, the record-breaking Canadian mountain bike adventurer and two-time Yak Attack winner was also a participant in the race. The biking event, organised by Phil Evans and his team for the first time back in 2007 has developed into a world-famous mountain biking event that attracts mountain bikers from all around.
In a similar vein, tourism stakeholders are looking to attract adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies to Nepal with a plethora of adventure sports.
Enthralling Mountain Biking Events
In recent years, foreigner participation in adventure sports in Nepal has multiplied. Besides Yak Attack, Himalayan Grand Endure, Himalayan Single Track, Kathmandu Kora, Yak Ru, Himalayan Outdoor Festival are some other popular mountain biking events organised in the misty mountains of Nepal. However, there is no specific data to track the actual number of foreigners landing in Nepal for these events. That being said, the volume of tourists coming to Nepal for mountain biking has been growing significantly, according to Raj Gyawali, founding director of Social Tours and Kora Kathmandu Biking Event.
Analysing such growth in numbers, tourism entrepreneurs and stakeholders have been considering mountain biking as one of the prominent tourism products to cater to adventure seekers. Visit Nepal 2020 Secretariat, in collaboration with travel agencies and mountain bike event organisers, led by Gyawali, is organising KaliX Mountain Biking Festival in Kaligandaki, Mustang. The mountain bike festival is scheduled for 1-6 December in 2020 and will be an annual event.
“We are currently working on a racing track in Kaligandaki gorge aiming to create a lifetime experience for the foreigners to attend”, said Gyawali.
Lifetime Experiences in Ultra-Trail Running
Even though Nepal does not have a long history of organising ultra-trail running competitions, it has been a hotspot for numerous mountain marathon events. ‘Annapurna 100’ is one such famous mountain marathon that attracts a lot of foreign participants to Nepal.
This year, Nepal was the hotspot for ultra-trial running since Annapurna 100 was selected as the “Grand Final 2019” of the Golden Trail Series tournament after a series of 6 major events in the USA and Europe. According to the website Gurkha Trailblazer, Pikey Demba Trail Race, Mustang Trail Race 2020, Annapurna Circuit Fast Pack – Spring, Gosaikunda to Helambu Trail Race, Himal Race 2020 – Sagarmatha – Annapurna, Langtang Fast Pack are scheduled to take place in 2020.
Similarly, Annapurna Circuit Fast Pack – Fall, Everest Three Passes Fast Pack, Annapurna Circuit Trail Run, Annapurna Circuit Trail Run will be held during Visit Nepal Year 2020.
In total, 187,692 foreigners visited Nepal specifically for trekking and mountaineering in 2018, a 16 percent growth compared to 2017. The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) is focusing on opening up new trekking trails in the far western and eastern regions of Nepal, keeping Visit Nepal 2020 in mind.
At present, trekking has a 20 percent share in tourist arrivals and their contribution to the GDP of Nepal. Likewise, on average, everyday spending of foreign trekkers is said to be around USD 100-150, according to TAAN.
Raman Grandon, CEO of TAAN informed that TAAN will open up new trekking routes in Kasturi Trekking Trail and Naawar Trekking Trail in Karnali Province.
Likewise, Sing-la Shamanism Trekking Trail in Ganesh Himal region, Suke Pokhari and Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale alongside Seven Passes Trail and Seven Passes Trail in Province 4, Dhorpatan-Maikot-SheyPhoksundo Tourism Trail and Thabang Village and Jaljala trek in Province 5 will also be opened.
“In addition to this, TAAN will also open trekking in Limi Valley and Rara-Phouksundo trek route in Province 6 and Badimalika and Ghodaghodi Taal in Province 7,” added Grandon.
According to the Tourism Ministry and Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), a total of 3,136 mountaineers from 81 nations including Nepal received permits for climbing mountains last year, contributing USD 5.5 million to the country’s revenue. Similarly, the average daily spending of foreign Everest summiteers is around USD 600, states Jinesh Sindurakar, chief administration officer of NMA.
“NMA is the active member of Union of International Alpine Association (UIAA) and Union of Asian Alpine Association (UAAA); we will coordinate with all the alpine clubs of the world for the promotion of mountains of Nepal for VNY”, informed Sindurakar.
NMA doesn’t have any plans for opening up any new peaks for climbers anytime soon, but the organisation is partnering with the Korean organisation Umm Hong Gill Human Foundation for the construction of a high tech mountaineering school in Manang.
“We are also working with Korea Telecom and Umm Hong Gill Human Foundation for the operation of a rescue centre in Machhapuchhre base camp”, Sindurakar wrote to NBA.
Likewise, NMA is teaming up with Nepal Climbing Team to conduct the second Ice Climbing Festival in Manang from 1 -10 Feb 2020.
“As informed, the government is likely to waiver the royalty fee of some mountains for VNY 2020”, Sindurakar added.
Home to many rivers, Nepal has been offering unforgettable white water rafting experiences to its visitors. Tourism entrepreneurs and stakeholders plan to incorporate rafting into the scheme of things for Visit Nepal 2020.
Suraj Vaidya, the national coordinator of Visit Nepal 2020, informed that VNY Secretariat, in collaboration with Nepal Rafting & Canoeing Association will organise the world’s largest rafting and canoeing competition in Karnali River. “It will be an annual event to bring in adventure-seeking water sports enthusiasts to Nepal from around the world”, Vaidya added.
Exclusive Adventures in Paragliding
At present, Paragliding is one of the most popular aerial adventure sports in Nepal. Yogesh Bhattrai, president of Nepal Airports Association, suggests that the market stake of aerial adventure sports is growing slowly and has turned out to become one of the main attractions for foreign tourists.
National Arial Sports Association plans to organise various events during VNY 2020. The Paragliding Pre-World Cup/ Asian Tour competition from February 23, 2020, an annual competition in Nepal is scheduled for next year.
“We will also organise Paragliding Accuracy World Cup in Pokhara if the government and Nepal Tourism Board supports us”, Bhattarai added.
The Cliff Pvt Ltd, comprising of collective investment of young Nepali entrepreneurs are coming up with a new Bungee project in Kusma. The under-construction Bungee project, based on the gorge of Kaligandaki River with a suspension bridge of 520 meters in terms of length and 224 meters in height is claimed to be the second-highest Bungee spot after the Macau Tower in China. The project is likely to open its commercial business from 2020.
“The construction of the structure is in the final stage, and we are likely to make the soft launch in two months, we will open the booking then after”, informed Raju Karki, chairman of The Cliff Pvt.
Burgeoning Adventure Market
The global adventure tourism market was valued at USD 586.3 billion in 2018, which is projected to reach USD 1,626.7 billion in 2026.
In 2013, Nepal’s National Tourism Strategy Plan set an ambitious target of attracting 2.14 million foreigners and 500,000 adventure tourists by 2024. The plan additionally aimed to make adventure tourism a billion-dollar market with an increment of earning of 36 percent from adventure activities.
However, people engaged in adventure sports and tourism activities say point to several hurdles to attract adventure seekers from across the world. According to Bhuwan Sharma, general manager of Last Resort, youths enjoy adventure sports, and Nepal cannot attract young people because of the expensive air tickets and living expenses.
“Nepal is expensive compared to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The government needs to work on this issue to receive a heavy influx of adventure-loving young tourists”, he said.