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Nepal and COVID-19 - Future of Nepalese Tourism

  • Author: Stuart Butler
  • Posted on: Sat May 16, 2020
  •   2
Nepal and Covid 19

2020 was supposed to be a big year for Nepalese tourism. The government had launched the ambitious Visit Nepal Year 2020 with the aim of massively increasing visitor numbers to the Himalayan wonderland. But, no sooner had the campaign launched, than Coronavirus (COVID-19) swept across the world and tourism everywhere ground to a sudden halt. Needless to say, the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign has been abandoned as Nepal, like the rest of the world, locked down and waits for better days.

But what will the future of travel both worldwide and in particular to Nepal look like? Like much of South Asia, Nepal has, so far at least, escaped the Coronavirus (COVID-19) brush quite lightly.

As of May 16th 2020, the nation had recorded 267 confirmed cases of which 36 people had fully recovered. At the time of writing there had been no recorded deaths.

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COVID-19 in Nepal

The first case was confirmed in Nepal on January 24th. That patient had fully recovered within a week. It wasn’t until the 23rd March that Nepal’s second case was confirmed and since then there has been a slow but steady increase in cases.

The good news is that the Nepalese authorities acted very fast in order to contain the outbreak. Between January and March the government busied itself stocking up on essential medical supplies and equipment and spreading public awareness. Land borders were quickly sealed and passengers arriving by air were screened. Then, on March 24th, the day after the second case was confirmed, Nepal went into a full and very strict lockdown. At the moment this is scheduled to be lifted on May 18th (but depending on the situation at the time it may be extended).

International flights into Nepal have been suspended, schools closed and quarantine centres and temporary hospitals established across the country. These early measures might have helped prevent the disease from making too much headway in a country that would otherwise be ill equipped to cope with an outbreak on the scale seen in some other nations.

Covid 19 and Nepal

The Tourism Trends Changing

As in almost every country, the tourism industry in Nepal has been ravaged by Coronavirus (COVID-19). Hotels and restaurants are boarded up, tour companies are shutting up shop, Nepalese airlines are grounded and the Himalayan trekking trails are devoid of foreign hikers.

But now, as the world slowly and cautiously starts to re-open and people consider a life beyond Coronavirus the Nepalese tourist industry is peering into a crystal ball and wondering what the future of Nepalese and worldwide tourism might look like. And this is what some are seeing.  

  • As borders re-open and aeroplanes return to the skies it’s a given that people are going to generally remain cautious about travel. Most experts believe that for the next 6 months to a year most people will be holidaying either within their own country or neighbourhood or in nearby countries that they can travel too by land. This means the first people back to Nepal are likely to be Indian and Chinese tourists. Western tourists are not likely to start returning in any great number until at least early 2021.  
  • It’s likely that when people do start to travel again that city breaks and crowded destinations are out. Quiet countryside holidays, nature and walking will be in. And Nepal does quiet countryside walks better than anyone!  
  • Group travel and package tourism will not be as popular as before. There will likely be an upsurge in independent tourists searching for unique, experimental travel experiences.  
  • Big in-personal hotels will be passé. Small, independent boutique hotels and quality homestays will be the ideal.  
  • Governments around the world will enforce stricter hygiene and health and safety rules on hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities.  
  • Boarding an international flight – or other form of transport – will become even less pleasurable than it already is. There will be far stricter health and safety controls for passengers. In-cabin baggage may become limited. Sprays that disinfect passengers prior to boarding a plane might become common.  

The entire flying experience will be different. Passengers might be required to wear masks for the duration of flights. On-board meals may not be served. For a time at least the middle seats on planes might be kept free. The price of flying is likely to be fairly cheap when planes first take to the skies again but prices will quickly rise. 

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Why Nepal after Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

In the world of après Coronavirus tourism, Nepal seems to tick many of the boxes that people will be looking for.

Nepal After Covid 19

  • The country has so far weathered the Corona storm well and this will immediately make Nepal stand out over destinations that have been hard hit by the virus. If the traveller of the future is focused on quiet rural destinations then few holidays can match the bill like a two week trekking holiday in the Nepalese Himalaya (and for trekkers who are concerned about hygiene levels in trekking lodges then the solution is a full camping trek where the client will feel more assured that suitable precautions have been taken).  
  • Nepal also has vast expanses of wilderness preserved as national parks in which tigers, elephants and one-horned rhinos (among many other creatures) roam and small group safaris to see such creatures will become increasingly popular.  
  • With travel focusing on unique experiences likely to be popular Nepal stands in a good destination. Cooking courses, quirky walking tours (meet a living goddess anyone?!), bicycle tours and even coffee tasting tours can all offer a way of getting under the skin of Nepalese cultural life.  
  • Adventure activities and wellness retreats (where social distancing can be maintained) are likely to prove popular as well. Bungee jumping, paragliding and wild white water rafting are all big attractions in Nepal. And when it comes time to clear the mind then Nepal offers an almost unsurpassed choice of meditation and yoga courses and retreats lasting from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.  
  • Throughout Nepal there are ample opportunities to stay with local families in a homestay style experience and the country is home to some of the best – and most affordable – boutique hotels in South Asia. So, you can forget any worries you might have about overcrowded package holiday hotels.  

While none of us really have any idea of what tomorrow, next month or next year has in store for worldwide tourism, we can be certain that Nepal’s very professional travel industry as well as the Nepalese government are working hard to get the country re-open, safe and corona-free for future travellers. And that with all it has to offer it’s not a case of if tourists will return to Nepal, but how soon.


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  • Author: Stuart Butler
  • Posted on: Saturday May 16, 2020
Stuart

About Author - Stuart Butler

Stuart Butler is a writer, photographer and guidebook author who has been travelling in and writing about the Himalaya for over twenty-five years. He is the author of the Lonely Planet guidebook: Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, as well as both the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide Nepal guidebooks. He’s also written an online guidebook to trekking in Nepal for Horizon Guides. Elsewhere in the Himalayan regions he’s written guidebooks to Tibetan regions for both Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, has updated the Bradt Guidebook to Ladakh & Kashmir and is the author of the forthcoming Bradt Guidebook to Bhutan.

Alongside guidebook work he writes about the Himalaya for an array of international publications including Geographical magazine, I newspaper (UK), National newspaper (UAE)Sierra magazine (USA), and various in-flight magazines. His stories have covered everything from the yarsagumba trade to the environmental policies of Bhutan, trekking in Nepal and searching for yetis in Tibet.

His other region of speciality is East Africa where he has worked on projects with numerous conservation and safari groups. When not in the Himalaya, Stuart is based at the foot of the gorgeous Pyrenees mountains in southwest France with his wife and two young children. His website is www.stuartbutlerjournalist.com.

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Recent Comments

Nepal and Covid 19
Michael Hutt | Mon Jun 15, 2020

As Stuart says throughout Nepal there are ample opportunities to stay with local families in a homestay style experience. I'm eagerly looking forward to visit Nepal again soon after settle down of current pandemic. However, Nepal needs a good national strategy for this.

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Nepal and Covid 19
Liza Arnold | Mon Jun 15, 2020

Nepal is popular for its warm hospitality and spectacular views of the Himalayas. Nepal treks with homestay experience offers authentic trekking experience and insight into the local villages of Nepal. I look forward to explore more into this beautiful country.

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Nepal and Covid 19
Judy Lam | Sat May 16, 2020

Nice writeup. Good to hear something about Nepal tourism after present crisis. I hope we will be lucky to visit Nepal this coming season do a Great Himalaya Trails in Nepal. Thank you Stuart for sharing hope. God bless all!

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