Nepal is safe to travel After Covid-19 pandmic

Nepal Tourism after COVID-19

Everything shall come to pass

We all know that the whole market is crashed because of Covid-19. People has suffered physically and mentally because of the virus. Like every other industry Tourism industry has been hit hard by the virus. Covid-19 has shaken us to our very soul, no doubt on that but is it the end of tourism? Are we forever going to cancel travel plans? Is humanity going to give up the discovery and exploration of nature?

Let’s think about it, like everything else in the past, this shall too pass.

Impact of COVID-19

Nepal, country of Asia, lying along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges. It is a landlocked country located between India to the east, south, and west and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north. Its territory extends roughly 500 miles (800 kilometres) from east to west and 90 to 150 miles from north to south. The capital is Kathmandu.

Tourism is one of Nepal’s largest industries. Tourism revenue in 2018 accounted for 7.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported >1.05 million jobs, with the expectation of providing >1.35 million jobs by 2029. Nepal hosted 1.19 million foreign tourists in 2019, and the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, officially introduced on 1 January, aimed to attract 2 million tourists, generate $2 billion and create thousands of new jobs.

However, on 23 January, the first case of imported COVID-19 was detected in Nepal. In response to cases worldwide increasing exponentially and amid growing public concern, the government suspended the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ initiative on 3 March. Shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 13 March, the government suspended all permissions for mountaineering expeditions and suspended all visas.

After confirmation of the second imported case on 23 March, the government locked the country down and suspended all national and international flights. Massive cancellations of hotel and tourist bookings followed, resulting in widespread unemployment, loss of income and threatened livelihoods for thousands. The collapse of international and domestic tourism followed a 2% drop in tourist arrivals in January 2020 compared to 2019. Over 10 000 tourists who had entered Nepal before the lockdown was also left stranded, although many of them were eventually repatriated.

International and domestic commercial flights and chartered flights to Nepal are being operated from Sept 1, 2020. All incoming international passengers are required to meet and fulfil all the requirements of arrival protocols.

Current Scenario of Covid-19 in Nepal

These days things are beginning to return to normal routine in Kathmandu and other less affected cities after the lockdown was eased. The government eased the lockdown in different parts of the country as per the number of cases in the area. The high-risk areas which are the southern part of the country sharing an open border with India still remain under lockdown to control the outbreak.

As of Feb 20 2021, there are 273,263 cases of COVID-19 registered in Nepal. Out of which, 269,619 have recovered with active case standing at 3,644. Sadly, 2061 deaths have been registered in Nepal until Feb 20, 2021. Today as of  Feb 20, 2021 things are back to normal in Nepal and daily works have begun to resume. The vaccination has started in Nepal too and the government plans to vaccinate the majority of the population by Mid 2021.

Yet again, this shall too pass like everything in the past. Now we know better about how our small negligence can end up being a disease, we know why hygienic is of utmost importance and we’ll follow the guidelines of health experts and open the door of the New World.

Opportunities for New Pathways

Despite the fact that tourism industry is highly vulnerable to numerous environmental, political, and socio-economic risks, it has previously shown its resilience, as seen in the aftermath of the Maoist insurgency or the great earthquake of 2015. The nature and intensity of COVID-19, however, indicates that this crisis is different, and could lead to profound and long-term structural changes to tourism as a socio-economic activity and industry. Nonetheless, the crisis also provides unprecedented opportunities to redefine the tourism sector’s relationship with nature, climate and the economy and to transform the sector. The following initiatives may contribute to substantial, meaningful and positive transformation of tourism in post-COVID-19 era, in addition to implementing and communicating health protocols.

First, sustainability should be the core of growth of all sectors of tourism by addressing climate change and wherever possible, to move towards a circular economy or regenerating economy. One of the key tourism sectors in Nepal is adventure tourism, including trekking, rafting, mountaineering and other adventure activities. This can be restructured by blending natural and cultural experiences to make tourism sustainable. We need to learn lesson from past mistakes of prioritizing quantity over quality, and destruction over sensible development that can positively influence quality of life and the environment for communities dependent on tourism. For this to happen, the portfolio of tourism market has to be diversified; tourism infrastructure and service provisions, particularly at remotely located destinations have to be improved; high value tourism destinations have to be developed selectively in contrast to ‘free for all’ destinations, and professionalism has to be built in sustainable tourism practices.

Second, technology is at the core of the solution for combating COVID-19 and reopening the economy. There has been an increased use of robotics, artificial intelligence, and humanoid robots in delivering materials, disinfecting and sterilizing public places, detecting and measuring body temperature, providing safety and security to contain the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, airports, hotels, restaurants and community in general. In addition, big data has been used for fast and real-time decision making. While the potential job losses incurred by the adoption of this technology will be a source of controversy, it is highly likely that the travel and tourism sectors will use new digital technology after the COVID-19 pandemic becomes less serious as digitalization and innovation provide opportunities to scale up operational procedures that make travel safe and seamless and minimize wastes. In addition, it would help enhance the competitiveness and agility of MSMEs to reach customers, provide added value jobs and implement effective health protocols. It is therefore necessary that the government unveil recovery packages with a special focus to encourage maximum use of new technology, promote digitalization of MSMEs and invest in digital skills.

Third, the success of the tourism sector depends on the adoption of an approach towards building partnerships at all levels, consistent with vertical coordination between the three tiers of government – federal, provincial and local – as well as the adoption of evidence-based policy with a focus on community wellbeing. It also demands enhanced coordination across sectors supporting tourism such as air and road transport, technology, trade, investment, education, culture and strong public/private partnership beyond the concept of existing Nepal Tourism Board. Fourth is the promotion of domestic tourism. One can observe an increasing trend of more than 6 million middle-class Nepalis visiting different parts of the country for trekking, paragliding, rafting, bungee jumping, rock climbing, jungle safari, and sightseeing. Domestic tourism can have a positive economic impact at both the national and local level. It not only creates employment opportunities for the local people but also promotes local entrepreneurship. From a national perspective, it helps balanced regional development, promotes inclusive growth, and reduces vulnerability of the tourism by reducing dependency on foreign tourists.

Travel is Safer in Nepal after 2020.

Nepal is a landlocked country, the only way people from western countries come to Nepal is by Air.  NTB (Nepal tourism board) is working hard to do everything possible for making travel as safe as it can be without any hassle and extra struggle. The precaution guidelines which are actively in action for the time when International flights will be back to normal. As per the social distancing protocol by WHO, Nepal has always been the country where greeting is done with Namaste or Namaskar which is done with two hand joints together with a significant distance. As per the guidelines by Nepal Tourism Board, Gears like Temperature screening device, Sanitizer, high-quality mask, and all other equipment on that particular date will be at your service for all safety precautions.

Earlier in the autumn, a team of mountaineers from Bahrain were given special permission to scale Mount Lobuche and Mount Manaslu. They were made to follow all the new rules placed by the government and reported no problems. The success of the expedition was celebrated by the mountaineering community in Nepal, as was the government decision to reopen to all qualified mountaineers and trekkers in October.

Why you should visit Nepal after coronavirus?

  • COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates to us the value of freedom – the freedom to travel and to appreciate the mother nature. Well, Nepal can be a perfect destination as every activity in Nepal revolves around finding yourself and your existence.
  • Nepal hosts a diverse array of landscapes and is a country of contrast. Nepal is a small nation in terms of its size but the country portrays diverse landscapes, cultures and religions, providing lifetime experiences.
  • Travelling to Nepal is affordable as compared to other countries. Post pandemic travel around the world is going to be expensive. Nepal may just be a perfect pick for you as the country offers a wide range of choices in terms of accommodation, food, travel etc.
  • The mountainous region of Nepal is not touched by COVID-19. Most of the COVID-19 affected areas in Nepal are in the southern part, close to India border. The mountainous regions are not in the COVID hot spot areas.
  • The weather and air quality have improved due to travel restrictions and lockdown. Clear skies with vistas stretching for miles are visible and there has been a drastic reduction of litter and waste in the mountains.
  • The people of Nepal needs your help now more than ever. You can help by visiting the country and we are sure you will not be disappointed.

 

Hiking/Trekking can be the best idea after Covid-19.

We know the more we’re in social gatherings, the more chances of getting affected but it doesn’t mean you have cancelled all travel plans right? Matter of fact Nepal is one of the few countries where Covid-19 cases are decreasing rapidly! but still, we need to take every precaution possible for sure.
So what might be the sensible way to deal with this kind of scenario?

Most of the trekking regions in Nepal are less affected by the coronavirus. Although the virus has spread throughout the nation, the mountainous region of Nepal has seen only a few numbers of cases. Till date, there is no positive case in Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp and other major trekking regions. The local governing authorities have placed a strict quarantine and testing protocols to make sure that the virus is not traced in these regions.

The Tourism Ministry has requested all the lodge owners and local authorities to mandate the safety protocol strictly and to adhere by the guideline in day to day operation to gain back the confidence of international and national tourists. Major popular trekking areas such as Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp etc. may see fewer numbers of trekkers than expected once travel restriction has been lifted but you should still be cautious and follow the safety protocols strictly. We have also mandated new norms on our trek to help mitigate the risk of contracting the virus.

Furthermore, including travel, tourism, adventure, and nature, Nepal has a distinct quality of spirituality. This lockdown and pandemic have affected the mental health of millions of people. Travel with spiritual therapy for the mind is a must indeed for the current situation. Nepal assures the presence of such a relaxed and scenic environment that is integral to bettering one’s mental health. Rather than going to mass gatherings, one can go for nature exploration, trekking/ hiking which you might actually love to do after staying at home for almost a month or more depending on the city you live in. At the same time, the wonderful mountain views provide an amazing opportunity for complete physical and mental rejuvenation. The charming view of the horizon and sun rays’ kisses over the snow-capped mountains is enough to render you speechless and provide you with all the enjoyment you crave. In fact, the best views from the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Region treks make your journey full of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Nepal Welcomes You After the Covid-19

nepal visa after CovidThere is no need to cancel or alter your Nepal holiday plans for 2021 as of now and the tourism ministry is looking at every possible option for opening up the tourism in Nepal, whilst keeping the safety of travellers and workers a paramount. We are optimistic that 2021 will run as planned as the flights, hotels, lodges have all resumed safely catering to the needs of tourists.

The tourism industry, workers and local people of this country need your support now more than ever to sustain.  We are sure the normal days will return soon and in the meantime take care and stay safe. We look forward to welcoming you and guiding you in the Himalayas with better safety and experience.

 

Special Entry Requirements for Trekkers and Mountaineers:

 

According to guidelines approved by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation for mountaineers and trekkers:

  • Trekkers and mountaineers may be allowed into Nepal as of October 17.   Please contact your travel and trekking agency for more up to date information.

If implemented, the guidelines provide that:

  • Trekkers and mountaineers must obtain a visa before arrival through their travel and trekking agencies.
  • Trekkers and mountaineers upon arrival must submit negative results from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of departing their home country.
  • Trekkers and mountaineers must have a hotel booking for a 7-day quarantine in Nepal.
  • Trekkers and mountaineers must possess insurance of at least $5,000 USD against COVID-19.
  • On the fifth day of quarantine, trekkers and mountaineers must take a PCR test at their own expense before proceeding with their trek or expedition.

 

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Nepal is Second Home for international Tourist

Every night, thousands of people are leaving the Kathmandu Valley to go back to their villages despite the lockdown restrictions. With the extensions of the lockdown and low or no source of income, people are compelled to leave the city in the hope to get food and live a dignified life, even if it means risking contracting the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, many foreign governments have evacuated their citizens stranded in Nepal over the past few weeks considering the problems they are likely to face in the locked-down country.

At the same time, many are staying put wherever they are and living their lives as the new normal, and this also includes some members of the ex-pat community living in Nepal. Continents away from their home and families, many are continuing to live their lives in solitude even after a month since the beginning of the lockdown. But, by no means, they say they are suffering.

Living in Nepal

Kennath Sandalls

One of them is Kennath Sandalls. “Nepal is like my second home. I came to Nepal last September to travel. After the lockdown, I have been self-isolating myself in a hostel,” he says, “But I have enough opportunities to socialise now also. I am not bothered by the lockdown as I am used to it. I have a great company of my good collection of music, which makes it easier for me. I also have a lot of friends here, who are protective of me and I am in constant touch with them. And I love the food (daal bhaat) here, so I have had no complaints so far.”

Like him, William Gary Rutley Wornell also feels satisfied with his stay in Kathmandu. “I feel I am lucky to be able to stay here and without a problem. I work as a designer and I work mostly from home for books and videos. It keeps me busy.” Wornell is a freelance photographer from Finland with Canadian origin.

Not just in Kathmandu, foreigners are living well in Pokhara as well. A Dutch YouTuber Thomas Klabbers, who arrived in Nepal to travel some six weeks ago, says, “Life is mostly quite empty. I spend a lot of the days on the rooftop of my hotel listening to music. But, regarding food and essentials, it is actually still surprisingly easy. The supermarkets and some small shops in Pokhara Lakeside have all the essentials. Some days I go out to buy groceries and film.”

Of course, many who are still in Nepal were given a choice to go back to their country, to their families. Yet they chose to stay here and continue their lives. Sandalls says, “Yes, there was a choice to go back on a repatriation flight, but I chose not to go because it would have meant that I would have to go through numerous airports and countries to go back to the country that is already in lockdown. I felt safer here and the point of lockdown is to stay put. That is what I am doing.”

Thomas Klabbers

For Klabbers, who was living in Vietnam, also, leaving did not seem like the best option. “I can’t go back because it’s also locked down there. If Vietnam was open, I would consider it, but it seems Nepal is still safer than Vietnam at the moment, with fewer cases of coronavirus and fewer people living close together.”

Meanwhile, Michelle, a travel blogger, came to Nepal in February and got married here to a Nepali man. So, she does not have plans to leave the country and she is busy with her work from home. But she says she is glad that her friends and family were able to fly fly back before the airports closed.

Concerns

Despite their choices to live here in Nepal, the foreigners seem concerned about their visa issues.

“My visa has expired as we are only allowed to be here for five months at a time. We can extend it after the lockdown but I amamamam woworriedrried if we would not get sufficient time to process our papers and get the time to go back,” says Sandals.

Another concern is their work. “Both I and my husband work in the travel business so our income was hit [because of the crisis]. My freelance clients are on a monthly contract so if they do not renew their contracts at the end of the month, the money will be tight. From surviving to helping others will depend on our expenses over the next week or two,” expresses Michelle.

Wornell who came to Nepal to enroll for a course in Bishwa Bhasa Campus to study Nepali has a valid visa for now but is concerned that he might contract the virus. He says, as he would not want to take up the place of a Nepali in a hospital bed, he is being as careful as he can.

An empty road of Kathmandu. Photo: Kennath Sandalls

Doing what they can

Staying cooped up in the boundaries of a room is definitely not easy. That, coupled with the fear and uncertainty, does not make things any different. However, the foreigners are doing their part, contributing what they can.

“I have been catching up on some freelance work for companies in the USA and the UK. Also, I am doing some gardening and attempting to learn Nepali,” says Michelle. She further shares she also is doing her part by donating to Hiteri, a crowdfunding platform working to feed families who are having a hard time during this time.

“I am mostly staying in my home, but I am a photographer with a valid press pass so I go around and take photos too. I have extended the helping hand and am working with Kokroma, which is making masks for people during this time. So every few days when I go out, I am delivering them on my bike,” shares Wornell.

During his time out, Wornell is doing something that he hopes will make a difference after the crisis is over. “I am working on a personal project to capture this historic worldwide incident for documentation purposes. I think it will be a way to look back at the situation and I can give it a fresh perspective when it comes to the situation in Nepal.”

Sandalls has also shared his willingness to go on his bike and deliver food for the hungry. He has been in talks with a group ‘Lockdown Lunches’ distributing food on the streets.

Their observations of lockdown

Photo: William Gary Rutley Wornell

Wornell says he admires the government’s decision to shut down early. “I am very impressed with the security personnel as they are strict in their checking. Whenever I go out, I get stopped 25 times to get questioned. I see each community has leaders working to enforce the lockdown in collaboration with the security personnel.”

But diving deeper, he has witnessed that underprivileged people are having the difficulty to manage social distancing.

Klabbers also says he sees the lockdown to be very effective as most people listen to the rules [in Pokhara]. “There are no big groups of people together. Almost all restaurants are closed. And, the police did not have to use force once in Pokhara during the lockdown. I can say that the people in Nepal are taking the situation very seriously and listening well to health advice.”

Photo: William Gary Rutley Wornell

Sandals also views that the lockdown is going well. However, he has observed that some people are not understanding the concept of social distancing. And, with people going to villages, he hopes the government can handle the situation better.

Adding to this, Michelle says, “I think the lockdown and closing the borders was a good idea, but it could have been handled better. The Nepali nationals left at the border without being able to enter were handled very poorly. Considering the number of empty hotels available, I think, the government should have quarantined them in the hotels and paid the hotel owners for space. I am sure many hotel owners could have used the money and people would not have been left homeless at the border.”

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