The government of Nepal and Nepal Tourism Board authoritatively launched the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign in January as a year commitment to the tourism industry in Nepal. The campaign had the vision to enhance local tourism and build a strong foundation for a vacation destination. It had hoped for 2 million tourist visitors in Nepal. But, the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) shattered the plans into silence.
Globally, many countries have travel restrictions and few insurance firms have denied travel cover in order to impede the spread of the virus. Though the number of coronavirus cases is less, it seems the COVID-19 has a huge impact on many sectors among which, the tourism industry in Nepal is found to be massively hit. The government has announced to hold Visas to all non-resident Nepali entering in Nepal and foreigners from March 14 to April 13. Also, the government of Nepal has decided to halt Mount Everest expeditions from March 14 to April 30 in a bid to stave off the coronavirus ‘pandemic’. The decision has brought the number of tourists inflow and outflow to an abrupt halt. In recent years, this is the second time the expedition has been disrupted after a massive Earthquakes in 2015.
Nepal, the homeland of eight of the world’s 14 high mountains, earns over $ 300 million in permit fees for peak expeditions every year. The estimated amount for foreign climbers as mountaineering royalty is just USD 11,000 during the spring season for Mount Everest. Likewise, they are supposed to pay USD 2,750 in the summer season and USD 5,500 only in autumn. For Nepali climbers, it s estimated NPR 75,000 for spring, NPR 18,250 for summer and NPR 375000 in autumn.
As the economy of Nepal heavily relies on the tourism industry, the threat of coronavirus has come as a devastating blow to several tourism-oriented companies. The pain point has been to those Nepali who live three generations in a single room are patronized by tourists in traveling seasons. The families who reside in major trekking routes for making their regular living such as Porters, guides and so on have a big financial hit. The Nepali guides in Himalayan regions where even in the healthiest year, many guides of Khumbu Icefall suffered through Seasonal influenza. Only a few survived on the trek through the Khumbu region in order to reach Everest Base Camp(EBC).
During the mountaineering and trekking period, they all had to stay in a small tea house that had fewer facilities. They had to travel through the places where just washing hands were troublesome due to the limited availability of water. The global outbreak of coronavirus has scattered everything. In the downturn of tourist visitors, even the capital city of Kathmandu has been highly impacted by the threat of a pandemic. Thamel, the tourist district, which always had crowded cafes and shops filled with tourists now has only a few menial jobs left for their employees in town.
There are currently 4 coronavirus cases in Nepal. The citizens are asked to avoid social gatherings and maintain social distancing. They are strictly said to follow self-quarantine at home. The one-week lockdown is supposed to be till March 31, 2020. Medical workers are given personal protective equipment (PPE). The ventilators and isolation wards are built. The outbreak of the virus and prolonged lockdown has started threatening the inflation rate causing a recent rise in prices, food shortages, and economic hardships. In the face of adjournment of expedition permits, it is inevitable for the Nepali Government to loose more than NPR 300 million in 2020.