Tourism News & Message – October 2020 from Nepal
Nepal Tourism & Covid-19
At a time when Some Caribbean islands and Medeterrain countries that has world-renowned unspoiled beaches and crystal-blue waters are cautiously and carefully reopening their borders to international visitors, mountain, jungle and river in Nepal would see few trickled tourists this fall. In this hour of a pandemic that engulfed entire world people, we are betting on domestic tourism and tourists from neighbour countries.
Let us help each other
Human civilization has survived many natural catastrophes. The world had survived Spanish flue, two world wars and financial crisis that had collapsed the world in the last century alone. It overcame extreme recession and poverty. Human survival instincts and resilience helped them to move on and brought affluence and wonder in technological progress. This all happened because of mutual cooperation in the time of crisis. Unlike those days we have an advantage in science and technology. This makes a big difference despite the lethal nature of covid-19 that has grappled the world. In spite of broken down supply chain and forced lockdown condition for a long period of time, we can see human beings are fighting back to get into normal condition. By nature, they cannot make it lying down.
Unlike developed countries, Nepal has its own share of a bigger problem. Its reaction to the covid-19 induced situation is not very good. Still, people are not swayed by anything they have ever experienced in a lifetime. Definitely more people would be going under the poverty line yet most people like elsewhere sound positive to overcome corona-virus with or without vaccination.
At least this generation is lucky to have the facilities that were not there in the last century when Spanish flue hit and knocked out more people than covid-19 is expected to do the damage. In this hour mutual cooperation is again needed to help a human being to come out of the crisis. With discipline and patience, we ought to follow the protocol set by the World Health Organization and dare to travel when borders are opened to see the world that is rejuvenated due to covid-19 pandemic.
“Don’t travel until it is safe”
Mountain in Nepal can wait when you are healthy and safe
For many people to visit or see Mt. Everest has been in their bucket list for a long time. Their desire to trek the famous Annapurna trials has been their dream. They must be fascinated by the pictures of Dolpo and Mustang. And hope to do a long traverse to this enigmatic land. The alluring tales to the base of Kanchanjunga and Makalu must have beckoned them for quite some time. For those who have heard about tiger and rhinoceros and have read the tales described in the book ‘Tiger for Breakfast,’ by Michael Peissel about the legendary man Boris Lissanevitch, must have been dreaming to visit Nepal. And the magnificent white water rafting in the river fed by the Himalayan snow must have bugged the mind of thrill-seeking adventurers. For many people, Nepal has long been on their bucket list. Even more so there are many people who have been dreaming about their weird fascination of climbing Mount Everest and some of the challenging Himalayan peaks. Lots of climbers have been lured to visit Nepal in spite of the hefty price that can make a hole in their pocket. Climbers who dream of climbing one of the many peaks of the Himalayas are eager to hear the news of the opening of Nepal. For all of them, our advice, for the time being, is “don’t travel until it is safe.” Our current travel guides and advisory are meant for near future plans and mental escapes only.
You must be wondering when is safe. There will not be a safe time anywhere until a vaccine is discovered. That is the understanding of most people all over the world. Until then we all have to grapple with the pandemics and move on with our life. It should not dictate the course of our lives. Do what you should do. Visit where you want to visit. Abide by the travel protocol, check safety issue, and visit places in new normal condition.
Nature and the mountain community would be sufficiently safe for tourism
“As and when the warm weather settles in the spring 2021”
In Nepal, we expect the pandemic would begin to ease at the beginning of 2021. There is no hard fact, nor any scientific knowledge for this prediction. But assuming the current trend remains as it is and people getting used to the new normal condition due to the pandemic if government and public cooperate to take required precautions, we believe, nature and the community would be sufficiently safe for tourism when the spring warm weather settles in. There is no alternative to a human being to get into a new normal life pattern. Permanently self or forced lockdown is not a solution; we all have learned this. Lockdown is a temporary measure to stop the virus from spreading quickly into the mass to avoid health catastrophe. The new normal may require temporary and partial lockdown of affected places and areas and upgrade the medical facilities to deal with the emergencies. The most positive scenario is that there may not be complete lockdown of all the places in the world like the one that happened at the beginning of March and April 2020.
Covid-19 Situation in Nepal – News Brief
The latest authoritative report says the corona cases in the countryside of the southern plain are going down. When Indian cities started to lockdown completely in March 2020 there were sharp increases of coronavirus infection in the countryside especially in the outlying districts that border India as people return back to their villages. Even then mountain communities were very much less affected throughout the period when the whole country was virtually immobile. After four months of complete lockdown, Nepal government gradually eases people and vehicular movements throughout the country. Since July 2020 the restriction has been imposed time and again at a different level depending upon the corona cases found at various places and the danger the central government perceived. After 10th September 2020, the lockdown was eased partially. From 17th September 2020 government decided to lift the lockdown and then announced tourism activity can be started from 17th October. Domestic flight, hotels, restaurants, and intercity buses were allowed to open and conduct business from 17th September. Business, as usual, has been allowed with standard safety protocols.
In the valley, the situation at present is quite alarming with hospitals unable to accommodate more cases. Covid-19 cases inside Kathmandu valley started to increase at an alarming speed at the beginning of 2nd week of October. The highest increases are in the core centre of Kathmandu Metropolitan area. The present trend is likely to demand another lockdown before or just after the festivals that start after 17th October. The chances of flattening the curve depend upon strict adherence to the protocol by the local people and cautious opening of public facilities and transportation. The long lockdown that opened in July contained the virus; however, it rocked havoc on the economy and livelihood of the people. This is one of the major reasons to initiate relax rules for economic activities.
As of 10 Oct 2020, there are 4,686 people under quarantine in various facilities across the country. The number of active cases in Nepal is 30,818. Total 5,008 new cases of the coronavirus infection were registered on 10th October that makes 105,684 cases in Nepal. Health Ministry report says there are total 1,164,557 tests carried out using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method. The latest figure is 19,320 tests in a day. Covid-19 death is at 614. The three districts in Kathmandu Valley registered unprecedented 1,177 new cases of corona-virus infection in a single day. This is the highest figure in a single day in the valley. Total 1,638 cases of corona-virus infection are recorded.
The New Normal
Restriction in Kathmandu valley was relaxed since17th September. The relaxed situation is in the second phase. The first phase began on 22 July. That was after four-month. The whole country was lockdown on March 22, 2020. The lockdown was again imposed on 19th August after the virus spread rapidly in the core cities of the valley. Now Except for schools, theatres and public places and gathering vehicular and people’s movements are allowed freely inside the valley. Of course, there are some restrictions in plying the road with even and odd number plates alternatively. The local administration has also relaxed travel restriction for vehicles entering and exiting the valley. Though banks and shops are opened people are still sceptical to visit these places. People are wearing masks but social distancing generally is not strictly observed. Public transport is strictly warned to follow the safety rules published by the government but we can easily see that these rules are not observed, much less regulated by the authority.
Nepal is Opening
Ministry of Civil Aviation has allowed domestic airlines to run their scheduled flights from September 17. Many airlines have already started flying to their destinations. The rule is to fly with half passengers with all safety rules in place. At this point, we don’t know if the safety consideration is maintained or capacity rules are being followed.
International scheduled flight will start on 17th October. Earlier only charter flights were allowed for rescue of stranded passengers.
Ministry of Tourism has published a set of protocols for tourism establishments especially airlines, hotel, restaurants and places where tourism activities take place. For detail log in to Nepal Tourism Board web site https://trade.welcomenepal.com/downloads-cat/safety-hygiene-protocol/
Unlike at the beginning when everything was shut down abruptly because of the potential danger of coronavirus spreading in community and inside the country now people seem less afraid of the virus. The mainstream and social media have made them bold enough to accept that it is anything like a cold virus. If precaution is taken and rules are followed people start believing that there is no such danger as initially perceived though it is still potentially dangerous and can spread like a wild-fire.
The Health Ministry was hesitant to open the lockdown in Kathmandu more freely because the virus was still spreading from other districts in the plain to the valley. The decision to relax lockdown was in fact a political decision to placate business establishments as well as the administration inability to regulate their own rules. The Ministry gave up their stand in the face deafening hauling of local business, tourism people and airlines.
Keep your dreams alive
We wait patiently to welcome you again
In spring 2021
Local Travel condition
For trekkers, it is utmost important to know local restrictions in the trek destinations. The central government had given authority to local governments at village levels to make their own rules and protocols for visitors travelling through their villages. It is natural for the local people to be concerned about the spread of the virus in their community.
There are sporadic and unverified reports that some local governments are imposing their own set of safety protocols; some are even closing their villages for visitors – foreign or local. If this is true trekkers would be subjected to additional safety rules that nobody is aware of or reroute their itinerary. There are reports that Khumbu, Mustang, Dolpo, Humla districts required a negative PCR – need to travel in groups of minimum two. There is no public notice. Most of this information is through the grapevine. There is a report that says Manang has halted all tourist activity until spring of 2020. Recent information from Ghandruk says they are closed for tourism until further notice. Everest requires a PCR till date. Ghandruk is closed so is Poon Hill. Manang is closed for the season.
These local restrictions are bound to make trekking much more challenging. This situation demands a more cautious approach as the itinerary and schedule may be changed and new logistics has to be considered in advance to reroute the travel program. This may entail additional expenses in terms of the fresh permit, park fees, etc.
Entry Procedure – Visa and documentation
17th October 2020, the opening date for tourism is only for trekking and mountaineering. Tourist Visa has to be applied to the embassy of the home country. It involves documents like confirmation with local trek outfitter. In turn, they have to supply valid trek entry permit and itinerary. They also have to confirm that the trek guide and their family are insured for covid-19. The visitors may have to show hotel confirmation. “Negative PCR test is taken within 72 hours prior to boarding the flight” has to be submitted at the flight boarding point. For visitors from countries that have no Nepalese embassy, they can obtain a tourist visa on arrival; but they must carry with them permission from the Department of Immigration, Kathmandu. For that, they have to submit documents like trek itinerary, trek permits, and confirmation from local trekking agents. The trekkers must also submit personal insurance worth US$5000 that cover covid-19.
These rules sound simple. It is the tip of the iceberg. The local agent and operators will have to do all paper works that demand much more effort than climbing a mountain. To get visa recommendation for the embassy from the Department of Immigration the local outfitter has to run to Trekking Agents Association (TAAN) and then to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to get letters that say the trekkers stay in Nepal are taken care of by the organization. In turn, TAAN and NTB have their condition for the trekking agents to fulfil that includes their registration and paperwork related to taxes. For most trekkers all these paper works are deterrent. The trekking agents on their part find new rules and procedure as they go through the process to enable their guests to get a simple tourist visa to come for a trek in Nepal. It is getting to the condition similar to those days when you want to travel to countries like PR China.
For convenience, it is best for the trekkers to arrive Kathmandu after November 16, 2020. As of today, the notice says all the above condition are waived except negative “PCR test that is taken within 72 hours before they board the flight” to Kathmandu. The present rules say on arrival travellers are required to go through PCR or RDT tests.
Even for local people, the Nepalese Government require recent negative PCR test results and a permit from a Chief District Officer to enter Kathmandu Valley from other districts.
Keep tuned to changes that continue to happen. Call us or write to us.
The public is given Safety Protocol to follow but we don’t see they are following strictly. Public transport is instructed to carry 50% of their capacity. In return, they are allowed to charge a double fare. In practice, they carry full incapacity and charges double fares. The main shopping centre like Asan in Kathmandu and centre city in Patan are crowded with people without any consideration of safety.
The government too is irresponsible in their conduct. In the recent public notice of the Health Ministry, the spokesperson said, “Go to the hospital when you are knockdown and blackout.” Earlier in the week, the health minister said to the public to take care of themselves when they become sick. This week they came with a notice to the public to take care of themselves including death from covid-19. The irresponsibility of the government has no bound.
In this context despite the travel protocol for tourists and foreign travellers, there is no guarantee to be assured that the protocols would be strictly followed. Moreover, it is not sufficient for only the tourist service establishment to follow the protocol. Ultimately tourists will have to mingle with the local as they travel around the country. There are no assurances or trust to see that visitors are following the safety protocol nor they are a strict monitoring system to ensure the protocols are adhered. It is similar to what we have been seeing locals travelling in public places.
At present public hospitals assigned to treat covid-19 cases are overwhelmed with sick people. Private hospital costs are very expensive. A lengthy stay in the hospital would cost fortune – more than the cost of their tours.
Places in the mountain are so far safe. But there are dangers that domestic flights would spread the Corona-virus. The local is already getting jittery.
The challenge in high altitude treks in Nepal is incomparable to any destination in the Himalayas
Covid-19 is here to stay. Let us accommodate our life in a dire situation. When travel restrictions are eased, concern for contacting is reduced, life around the world turns into new normal, the Himalayas and its wonderful mountain will be still there waiting for your dream to come true.
“Nepal is the most inclusive and versatile tourism destination in the Himalayas”
Nepal is identified with Himalaya. It has 10 highest mountain peaks including Mt Everest known in Nepal as Sagarmatha.
1st time in April 25th, 2015 earthquake Mt Everest did not have successful summit since Sir Edmund Hillery and Tenzing Norgay climbed on 28th May 1952. Spring 2020 is the first season ever Mt Everest and all-mountain peaks did not have a climbing permit. Covid -19 has helped regenerate Mt. Everest and all the popular peaks in Nepal.
Though India boasts of its peaks in their section of Himalaya in Ladhak and Sikkim it is nowhere equal to a vast stretch of high peaks in Nepal. Bhutan has its share of peaks but Chomolari, the highest peaks in Bhutan, does not compare to formidable and majestic peaks that are in the Himalayan chain that lies in Nepal. Nepal is the most inclusive and versatile tourism destination in the Himalayas.
The challenge in high altitude treks in Nepal is incomparable to any destination in the Himalayan belt. Nepal is the most open Himalayan destination on either side and at both ends of the Himalayas. There is no restriction at all. And, Nepal has most ethnic diversity than any countries in the stretch covered by the Himalaya.
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