As anticipated, tourism in Nepal has begun bouncing back steadily with COVID-19 infections and deaths subsiding. As the third wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant was much milder than its previous strains in terms of hospitalisations and fatalities, tourism stakeholders had hoped that the country’s tourism industry would start reviving from this spring.
The massive nationwide vaccination against the contagion has also contributed to bringing down the number of COVID infections significantly. The country now reports less than 15 new cases daily while the death toll is nil. The government has lifted all the restrictions imposed to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Fully vaccinated tourists are not required to carry their PCR test reports with them while entering Nepal. This has encouraged many online international airlines to resume their flights to Kathmandu. Several carriers have also opted for increasing their flight frequencies as they have found better business prospects. Amid such a scenario, the nation is now welcoming more international tourists.
Nearly 80,000 foreign travellers entered Nepal by air alone in the first three months this year as per the figures released by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). Of the total number, about 20,000 tourists were here in Nepal in February while the figure increased to as many as 42,000 in March. With around 15,000 Indian tourists, the southern neighbour continued to be the topmost tourist source market for Nepal last month as well. The United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Bangladesh emerged as the second, third and fourth key tourist generating markets sending 4,896, 4,029 and 2,152 tourists, respectively, to the country. In March last year, Nepal had played host to only about 15,000 international tourists.
Spring (March-May) is considered peak tourist season when a lot of adventure lovers, especially mountaineers and trekkers, come here. Being one of the world’s most lucrative adventure tourist destinations, the country is expected to record more travellers this month.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) has already issued permits to more than 200 climbers from over 40 different countries from around the world to attempt on Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) for this season. Of the total permit receivers, 50 are from the US. The nation hopes to host more expeditions from various parts of the world.
Meanwhile, an eleven-member Black team is planning to climb the world’s tallest peak next month. Named as ‘Full Circle’, the expedition aims to create awareness about the need for diversity and inclusion in outdoor sports and beyond for the Black community.
In the meantime, well-known Nepali climber Mingma G Sherpa along with other mountaineers recently reached the summit of Mt. Dhaulagiri. This is the season’s first ascent of the peaks above 8,000 metres. Technically difficult, the 8,167-metre mountain is the world’s seventh highest.
Main tourist destinations like the Khumbu Region, the Annapurna Region, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini have now seen a good number of domestic as well as foreign tourists. With its unparalleled scenic landscape and traditional culture, Mustang alone is currently attracting some 3,000 tourists on a daily basis. With such a huge inflow of tourists into these areas, hotel occupancy rate has been increasing there.
As a resilient business, tourism in the country is the second largest source of foreign currency after the remittance sector. Tourism entrepreneurs in Nepal are confident that the country could witness a full recovery of their business in the upcoming autumn if everything goes well. But this requires collaborative efforts from the government and the private sector.