Print Edition - 2012-11-03 | MONEY
Number of trekkers projected to rise 20 percent this year
Nov 2, 2012-
The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) has said that the number of foreign trekkers this year is likely to increase by 15-20 percent thanks to the publicity generated by the Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) campaign last year.
According to TAAN, although NTY attracted record-high arrivals last year, there had been no matching growth in the number of trekkers. However, a post impact has been observed this year.
Trekking agencies said that the Annapurna and Everest areas had been flooded with trekkers this autumn. But other trekking destinations have been largely ignored. “Trekkers are flocking to the two world renowned trekking routes—Annapurna and Everest—but their numbers in other areas have been very nominal,” said Mahendra Singh Thapa, president of TAAN.
Thapa said that due to the outdated and inappropriate policy of the government, money-spinning areas like Manaslu, Upper Dolpa, Lower Dolpa and Upper
Mustang have not been exploited to the full. These areas are restricted by the government and costly trekking permits keep the numbers down, Thapa added. For example, last year there were around 109,000 trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit, but the restricted area of Manaslu, which lies nearby, received a mere 2,500 trekkers. Similarly, there were around 35,000 in the Everest region, but Upper Mustang received only 3,000 trekkers.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, 10,715 trekkers visited the controlled areas last year. Potential trekking visitors have been known to drop their plans due to permit hassles. Foreigners are required to obtain a special permit to visit protected areas from the Home Ministry.
“Demand for new routes is high, however, the decade-long policy of the government has diverted visitors to other areas,” Thapa said. The policy needs to be amended in line with the changing context, he added. Trekking in Nepal is an all-season activity. It is possible at any time of the year depending on where one goes. However, the most popular seasons are spring (February-May) and autumn (September-November).
Travel trade entrepreneurs said that the trekking segment has multiple advantages. As trekking requires visitors to stay a minimum 15 days in the country, the length of stay and the amount of money they spend increases.
Similarly, trekking benefits locals directly, and it has become a means to alleviate poverty in remote areas by generating income and jobs. For example, the per capita income of the people in the Everest and Annapurna regions has reached US$ 2,500, much higher than for people living in the metropolitan cities. “Considering these advantages, the government needs to rethink the potential destinations and withdraw trekking restrictions,” he said.
Trekking packages in Nepal start at US$ 70 per day. Tour operators said that a majority of trekkers come from long haul destinations like Europe and America, but in recent days, Asian visitors have also started showing interest in trekking in addition to the traditional city tours and leisure activities. They said that the number of Chinese trekkers, in particular, had jumped of late.
Published: 03-11-2012 09:41