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28th March 2005, 07:21 AM
By Ballav Dahal,
LUKLA, Mar. 26: Tourism in the Khumbu region, one of the world’s most
popular tourist destinations, has also been affected, with the country
recording a sharp decline in tourist arrivals this spring.

According to local tourism entrepreneurs, tourist arrivals in the area have
dipped by a whooping 60 per cent this spring in comparison with the numbers recorded in the same season last year. Tourist arrivals in the country decreased by more than 40 per cent last month over the same period of 2004.

In the past, the region used to attract around 30,000 foreign tourists
annually, and dozens of expeditions would attempt Everest. But only about
17 expeditions have received the permit for the peak this season. Dozens of
expedition teams and thousands of trekkers used to visit the area in the
past. The booming tourism industry in the area would create thousands of
jobs here.

Popularly known as a storehouse of many endangered flora and fauna, the
Khumbu region has been a major attraction of Nepal among foreigners. The
area holds a wide range of attractions, including Mt. Sagarmatha, many
other mountains and trekking peaks, and the Royal Sagarmatha National Park. The hospitable Sherpas and their traditional culture and lifestyle are an added
attraction.

With the tourism business showing an unprecedented downturn trend, local
entrepreneurs are worried. They are waiting for the next tourist season.
“We used to be quite busy during the tourist seasons in the past. We are almost free now”, says Chungba Sherpa, managing director of Khumbu Resort (P) Ltd.

The unfavourable tourism scenario has not only affected hoteliers but also
porters and farmers.

The main reason for the downward trend of the tourism industry has been the
negative portrayal of Nepal’s image as a destination in the international
arena due to the political unrest and Maoist violence. The presentation of
Nepal in a negative light by the international media and the issuance of
adverse travel advisories by foreign diplomatic missions have become
detrimental to the potential tourism industry. However, the Khumbu region
has not been as affected as some other tourist sites.

Sherpa suggests that the public and private agencies involved in tourism
promotion must take some urgent steps to revive the tourism industry.
“Since the local economy is totally depended upon the tourism sector, necessary focus has to be laid on protecting this multi-faceted industry,” says
Sherpa, who is also the station manager of Yeti Airlines at Lukla
Airport.

Dawa Phuti Sherpa, owner of Paradise Lodge & Restaurant (P) Ltd., says the
current decline in tourist arrivals indicates that more people in the area
will lose their jobs. In Lukla, there are around 35 hotels and lodges of
different categories. Of them, nine are high standard tourist hotels. The
hotels have provided employment opportunities to hundreds of people.
Another interesting aspect is that women are operating most of the hotels in the area.

Lakhfuti Sherpa, owner of Sunny Garden Hotel & Restaurant Everestrock,
points out the need to promote the tourism industry by launching massive
promotional programmes abroad.

“We must try to convince the tour operators abroad that Nepal is a safe
destination,” says Lakhfuti. Recently, the popular German travel guide—
Lonely Planet— has included the hotel in its list of best resorts.

She is the only surviving member of late Pasang Lhamu’s Everest expedition
and is the President of Women’s Mountaineering Association.

Padam Singh Ayer, DSP and chief of the Armed Police Force Base Camp at
Lukla, says efforts are underway to ensure security of the tourists. “We
are well aware that tourism of the entire country will decline if any
security-related problem occurs here,” Ayer says.

www.gorkhapatra.org.np

Boulia
30th March 2005, 06:36 AM
I am in Nepal tomorrow, all going to plan. Will post my thoughts from KTM and Namche on my way up to Khumbu.

yakshaver
31st March 2005, 04:00 AM
Boulia,

Please keep us informed.
Have a grand trip!

Don Gibson
2nd April 2005, 07:57 PM
From what we can see, there are no problems except a distinct lack of tourists!