Nepali Times
Uphill slog



The monsoon has finally receded and despite last week's irreplaceable losses to the nation there is optimism in the air. Like everyone else, most in the tourism industry are also in the wait and watch mode given our history of political uncertainty.

Ideally, the post monsoon autumn season should be a busy one for the tourism industry in Nepal. The three month-long gap before winter sets and covers the Nepal Himalaya with blankets of snow is ideal for every adventure possible from mountaineering and meeting Maoists, to river rafting and riding elephants in the jungles down south. Besides spring, weather-wise the autumn skies clear out to some of the most majestic views of the mighty mountains up north.

With all this attraction here one can naively assume that if the political situation improves tourism will pick up. But that itself is not enough.

Tourism today depends on a variety of factors, from the world economy to carrying capacity defined as the number of airline seats, get ting to the destination and the maximum number of hotel rooms available in the host country.

In an effort to maximise the tourist inflow the government recently announced a temporary increase in the number of inbound flights operated by international airlines to address the lack of seats for inbound tourists until 31 December.

This should have settled the concerns of tourism operators here but many are still sceptical about how much of a difference it will create in terms of volume. "Nepal has long been taken out of travel brochures by international tour operators who don't want to risk their investment because here, anything can happen any time.

There has been an increase in the number of inquiries but everyone is still on a wait and watch mode," says Shikhar Prasai, director of Natraj Tours and Travels, one of the largest tour operators in the country.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Pradeep Gyawali may have made the decision in the 28th annual general meeting of Trekking Agents Association of Nepal in an attempt to pacify the hungry industry but international operators have still not received written permission till the time of writing. "The plan has been announced but the actual materialisation still has to take place. In the coming few weeks it will all be clear," said Gyan Amarsinghe, general manager of Qatar Air, which plans to increase its weekly flights from 11 to 14 once they receive formal permission.

Despite all the bad publicity Nepal has received in the last few years, hope is the flavour of the season. From tour operators to hoteliers, and tourist souvenir shops everyone is hoping the political leaders will come up with a solution. Those like Laxmi Rajthala who runs the LBS Handicraft, a small tourist souvenir shop in Thamel say, "We are not able to even raise enough for rent sometimes but now that there is peace, perhaps there will be more tourists."

Pasang Dawa Sherpa, Managing Director of the Nepal Trans Himalayan Explorer is also optimistic and says, "Things have not changed dramatically so far but there are signs that the situation could improve."

And there is a lot to look forward to, keeping fingers crossed of course. Several mountaineering expeditions have already left to climb various peaks, most popular among them being Ama Dablam and Cho Oyu, the latter being the easiest among above 8000m peaks and considered a preparatory peak for those aiming to climb Mt. Everest. It seems everyone has recognised that giving a boost to the tourism industry will set the economic wheel in motion at least until things are resolved for good.

Among the various promotional events meant to boost tourism here, Nepal has christened one mountain in the Langtang area in honour of the founder of the Scout movement , Lord Baden Powell, to mark 100 years of scouting in 2007. The peak, 5,890m tall, will be called Baden Powell Scout Peak.


A 14-member group of scouts from South Asia returned from a trek to the peak on Sunday. Two members of the team also made it to the summit. "This year's trip was only to plan the route and look at the area as no one had been there before.

Next year when we start the centenary celebrations we hope to bring Scouts from all over the world," says team leader Keshav Bohora, who is also a manager at the Kakani International Scout Training Centre.

Shree Ram Lamichane, head of Nepal Scouts says several dozen countries have already been contacted and have expressed interest in coming here to climb the mountain next year. There are 28 million scouts worldwide and groups from Australia and Singapore are already organising trips to Nepal to climb the new peak while Scouts in Denmark and Sweden have confirmed that they will make the voyage in the near future.

The season also has bookings for at least 25 peaks on the permitted list but which have not been successfully ascended yet. The Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Japan Workers' Alpine Federation are organising a joint expedition to Nangpai Gosum (7312m) in the same area as Cho Oyu to mark 50 years of friendship between the countries. Expeditions are also going out to virgin peaks like Dome Kang, north of Kanchenjunga and the 6905m high Mt Pangbari in the Manaslu area.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)