06 November 2020
Nepal says it is reopening to foreign visitors seeking to climb and trek the country's famous mountains.
The country has been closed to foreign visitors for the past seven months because of the coronavirus crisis. Nepal's tourism industry has suffered as a result of the restriction. The industry employs an estimated 800,000 people.
Nepal is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world -- including the tallest, Mount Everest.
Rudra Singh Tamang is director general of Nepal's Department of Tourism. He told The Associated Press that only mountaineers and trekkers who have received a permit to take part in such activities would be let into the country. "We are opening to a sector of visitors who we know we can handle and manage."
The visitors will no longer be able to get a visa upon arrival to Nepal. They will be required to provide details of their trip before they arrive and receive government approval. The visitors must employ local equipment companies and prove that they have health insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment.
Visitors will also be required to take a coronavirus test before leaving their home country. They must also stay for a week in quarantine at a hotel in Nepal. Visitors must then pass another coronavirus test before they are permitted to go up the mountains.
Local workers supporting mountaineering teams will also be required to take coronavirus tests and prove they have been living in areas with no infections for the past two weeks.
"We are trying to revive the tourism industry that was badly hit by the pandemic, but we are not taking any chances or any risks," Tamang said.
The spring season is when foreign mountain climbers come to Nepal to attempt to reach the highest peaks. The autumn season is a popular time for foreign visitors coming to trek mountain trails. This year's spring mountaineering season was canceled in March because of the pandemic.
Nepal has reported 176,500 coronavirus infections and 984 deaths. The nation is running short on hospital beds. The government has asked patients with less than life-threatening cases to stay at home in quarantine.
The pandemic hit as Nepal was preparing to double the number of tourist arrivals. A government campaign had declared 2020 as the "Visit Nepal" year.
People in the mountains have been hardest hit. Workers normally depend on the busy spring and fall seasons to make enough money to last them all year.
Earlier this fall season, a team of mountaineers from Bahrain was given special permission to climb Mount Lobuche and Mount Manaslu. The climbs were permitted as a test of the new visitor rules.
Tamang said the country's mountaineering community welcomed Nepal's decision to reopen to some visitors. "We need to give a small ray of hope to the people in the adventure tourism industry that there is still a future somewhere to look forward to," Tamang said.
Ang Tshering Sherpa heads local mountaineering company Asian Trekking in Kathmandu. He told The Associated Press, "We in the adventure tourism industry are very excited that the country is finally open."
He added that his company had already begun receiving calls from foreign visitors who would like to come to Nepal. He said there is great interest in the spring 2021 climbing season, especially for Mount Everest.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
trek – v. to make a journey by walking
sector – n. one part of a country's economy
manage – v. to deal with something successfully
quarantine – n. a period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading
revive – v. make something from the past exist again
trail – n. a path through the countryside, often where people walk
adventure – n. an exciting and sometimes dangerous experience