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Nepal’s Himalayan tourist magnet Khumbu is bereft of tourists owing to COVID-19 fears

Birat Anupam, SUNSARI: With the onset of March, Ang Nuru Sherpa would be always in hectic schedule to serve his well-heeled guests at Hotel Everest View located on the lap of Nepal’s magical Himalayas of Solukhumbu district. This high-end hotel, to which Sherpa is manager, has turned vacant in this peak tourist season.
”There would be hundreds of preorder for our 12-roomed Hotel at the height of 3,880 metres above sea level,”said Sherpa, speaking over phone from Shyangboche located just above the famous Namche Bazar. He added, ”This time, my Hotel is vacant since the beginning of spring season.”
Kaji Bista, the manager of 8000 INN at Lobuche (5,050m), related similar woes. Bista said his hotel located just one station below Gorakshep (5190m), the last accommodation space to reach the Mt Everest base camp would have crowded in spring season.
”Our hotel has capacity to accommodate 30 tourists per night. But, these days, we have not a single guest from abroad,” said Bista, adding: ”March, April and May were high-earning months for us. The global corona virus pandemic gave full stop to our otherwise normal and natural business.”
Bista said a total of 1200 tourists and porters would be accommodated together in hotels, tea houses and shelters of Lobuche and Gorakshep. However, almost all are bereft of international guests. ”The situation is the same even in Namche and Lukla,” stated Bista talking in social media from his high altitude hotel built in the premises of the laboratory located at the highest point of the world named The Pyramid International Laboratory.
In March, there would be a mass arrival of international tourists for Himalayan expeditions and trekking in Khumbu region of Nepal. Tragically, COVID-19 fears has repelled all potential travellers at the cost of hotel and tea house operators in the region who rely on transient earning for year-round.
Nepal Government has cancelled all expedition permits from 14 March to 30 April. There are speculations on expanding the timeframe due to growing scale of the COVID-19 in South Asia mostly in neighboring India.
According to Pemba Sherpa, the information officer at the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site Sagarmatha National Park (SNP), which issues permit to visit Khumbu areas and counts touristic arrivals, there were 58,030 international tourists in SNP area in the last Nepalese fiscal year of 2075/76BS. In the last eight months of the ongoing fiscal year of 2076/77 BS (up to March 13), there was 31,100 international tourists.
”COVID-19 is taking a toll on our touristic arrival. It would be the weakest year in terms of international arrival after decade-long Maoist insurgency starting from 1996 to 2006 AD”, said Sherpa. RSS

Published Date: Thursday, March 19th, 2020 | 11:00 AM

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