Life & Leisure

Spring is here but Nepal’s mountains are empty

By Sangam Prasain

Kathmandu, Mar 1 (efe-epa).- Ang Tashi Sherpa, an owner of a lodge and coffee shop, in Lukla, the gateway to Mt. Everest, is not excited about this spring season that began Monday.

Nepal’s tourism season gets going with the onset of spring. Climbers and trekkers would be thronging the iconic Annapurna and Everest regions.

The Covid-19 pandemic had turned the past year into a total disaster for the tourism industry. Travel traders were hopeful for this year.

But Sherpa, who owns the Sherpa Lodge and Coffee Shop, is seeing another disastrous year ahead.

“We survived with a zero income last year. There were hopes that tourists will come back in droves this spring,” Sherpa told Efe.

“Things are not looking as good as we had anticipated.”

The spring season that lasts until May is the peak time for mountain climbing, including the 8,848.86 meter-tall Everest. September to November is also popular for trekking.

Mountain tourism is one of the backbones of Nepal’s economy.

Foreigners pay $11,000 to obtain a permit to climb Everest and spend anywhere between $40,000 and $90,000 for the entire expedition.

In 2019, the government earned $5.07 million in royalties from the issuance of climbing permits. Out of the total revenue, Everest accounted for $4.05 million.

Thousands of tourists travel across the country, giving a much-needed boost to the local economies while employing nearly half a million Nepalis, mostly as trekking and mountaineering guides.

Many tourism workers, who had been furloughed or laid off, had expected that they would be recalled for their jobs this year.

From high-altitude workers to guides and porters to lodging and food companies – all are now deeply worried about the future.

Janga Rai, 35, from Okhaldhunga works as a porter in the Everest region.

Rai had taken a loan of $500 from a local expedition company to manage his family expenses when Covid-19 completely washed out the Everest climbing season last year.

He hoped to clear his loan this year.

Mountaineering guide could earn $100 per day, excluding tips, while porters like Rai make $50 a day on the Everest route.

“But if tourists don’t arrive, I don’t have an alternative job,” Rai told EFE.

He was supposed to join an Everest expedition that would have employed him until the May end.

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