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Tourism News & Message – December 2020 from Nepal

Nepal Tourism in Covid 19

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) published by Himalayan News Service (HNS) Kathmandu, December 11 said: “Tourism revival unlikely till foreign visitors return.” It is rather a bleak outlook of Nepal’s tourism sector as noted by HNS.

The news was never good ever since March 2020 when everything was forced to lockdown due to covid-19. All economic activities were shut up totally for 5 months. In the PATA report ‘COVID-19 and The Tourism Sector: A comparison of policy responses in the Asia Pacific’, PATA has said that despite the re-opening of domestic tourism, it is unlikely that the tourism sector will stay afloat until international visitors return.’ Of course, the source country has to be ready first and the receiving countries have to stabilize and bring the corona cases to a minimum level as per WHO guideline.

The stark warning of long term business closures and unemployment has begun to ring true. The pathetic attitude of the government has brought many tourism-related small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the verge of closing their businesses. Considering January and February a low season it is almost 12 months that most business related to tourism is out of business. The side effect of business going burst would be in the loss of experienced and trained human resources. Many would opt to an alternative form of living and significant men power would head to Gulf countries. The workers at the bottom layers of the tourism industry are hardest hit by this pandemic; they never got any financial support from the government nor offered work as they had promised.

As in many parts of the globe, the second wave of corona cases has surged as the winter season sets in. Though vaccination has given hope, we believe Nepal will be the last country to get. The increasing cases of corona will not subside until warm spring weather return. Spring 2021 is the earliest perspective for tourism activity to restart. Though the government, Nepal Tourism Board and leaders of tourism hyped about domestic tourism in autumn, it didn’t happen as expected. October and November, two of the best seasons, are gone but domestic tourist did not come out to enjoy the beautiful sunshine, blue sky, gleaming Himalayas, wildlife, rushing white water and cool weather. Many enticing offers put forward by tourist businesses went in vain. The main reason was the ‘fear’ of contacting the virus. The second corona wave in winter dashed all the hope of getting domestic travellers.

Kathmandu Post in its news published on December 22, 2020, has a headline “The iconic Annapurna Hotel on Durbar Marg is closing its doors for an indefinite period due to a severe loss of revenue as the corona-virus snuffed out the tourism industry.” The report said that the hotel has not made a formal announcement but they have already started the process to shut down. The scenario is no different with Soaltee and Radisson. They are all five stars. Some of the hotel like Hotel Malla and many in Thamel have already shuttered. Some of these hotels are classic and money-spinners.

This news indicates that they are in survival mode. They are not shutting down permanently. The hotels are cutting down their cost and using it as an opportunity to revamp their service. Nevertheless, human resources are severely affected. More bad news may come along the way as the next tourism approach in spring and autumn 2021.

Like all the epidemics and pandemics, if history is to be believed, Corona – 19 would be history by end of next year. However business would take a long time to pick up the economic debris left by it. History of human civilization shows survival from such a disaster is a priority. When there is life there is life to live. Moreover, the law of nature is such that nothing on this planet is permanent. Happiness, sadness, sorrow, natural catastrophes, etc. are all momentary. The only difference some remain longer other a bit shorter. Some make a big dent and other just scratches; and after that life begins to flower again. Let us hope for the best in the New Year – 2021. When you are ready we will be ready! Or vice versa.

Gautam Buddha said a very long term ago “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

The Fiscal Budget of Nepal for 2020/2021 Nepal Government has allocated about four per cent of its GDP to respond to the pandemic. It’s fiscal and monetary policy has focused mainly on tax incentives and concessional loans. Though tourism recovery is one of its priority sectors, six months have elapsed the fiscal measures has not come into effect. The delay is taking a toll on the tourism economy. If it fails Nepal will take longer than other countries to recover.

News Brief
Current Covid-19 Situation in Nepal
The latest Government report says the corona cases has increased

Here is the latest government statistics: Total cases 2,55,979; Total affected 7515; Total Recovered 2,46,661; death 1803; PCR Test 18,90,740; Isolation 7,515; quarantined 409. Majority of cases are in Kathmandu valley. The latest report said 318 new cases surfaced in Kathmandu valley. Of the total 743 new cases in the country, Kathmandu district reported 250 infections while Lalitpur (Patan) and Bhaktapur registered 34 and 37 infections respectively (Himalayan Times).

In the last 22 days, total 1,55,107 swap samples were taken. Out of that 22,088 have tested positive. It is 15 positive cases out of 100 tests. It is higher than 5 percent set by WHO. This indicates that the spread has increased.

Except for Far East and Far West of a mountain region in Nepal, all places have reported more than 400 positive cases. Bagmati in the central region has the highest – more than 700 cases. Males are affected twice the number of females – males 166,460 and female 88,776. The age group between 21 to 40 years is highly affected.

Travel Condition inside Nepal

Restriction is relaxed in December: Since December 15 all public gathering are allowed, schools were opened, public transport ply all roads without odd and even number plates, and temples are opened for worship. Health Ministry has requested the public to maintain basic safety protocol.

Local market and people: Local market in Kathmandu is humming with people. As usual, people have come out for shopping and various works. There are no fears of the pandemic. Most people are using masks. Big gathering are requested in maintaining social distancing wherever possible.

Local travel condition for trekkers and tourists: The restrictions in the villages are lifted subjected to the fresh spread of corona cases. They can restrict movement anytime they find it is necessary. The central government had given authority to local governments at the village level to make their own rules and protocols for visitors travelling through their villages.

Domestic & International flights: Domestic airlines are flying to various cities that are in their major scheduled destinations list. Mountain destinations are still yet to be seen in the TIA flight schedule list. The airlines are flying with all safety rules. Air India and Nepal Airlines are flying between Kathmandu and New Delhi. Only travellers from India and Nepal are allowed in these flights.

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) flight arrival shows Nepal Airlines is flying to Narita (Japan) and New Delhi, Himalayan Airlines to Chongqing (PRC), Qatar Airline from Doha and Air Arabia from Sharjha. Air India and Nepal Airlines are only two airlines allowed to fly in between New Delhi and Kathmandu. Turkish Airlines is still yet to get into the schedule. (https://www.tiairport.com.np/all-flights)

Politics: In recent month there are sporadic street protests against the government. The issues are intense corruption, failed management, failed to contain the spread of corona virus infection.

There are fresh surge of street demonstrations after the current Communist Government with almost two-third majority in the parliament dissolved the parliament and announced the election in March 2021. According to constitution experts, the present Republic Constitution does not allow or give power to the sitting prime minister to dissolve the parliament. Before this new republic Constitution was implemented no government could function for more than 9 months. The politicians blamed the unstable governments for all the ills of governance. This is one major reason the present constitution did not have the provision to dissolve the parliament for five years.

The street demonstrations have been taking place since September after the lockdown was partially lifted. The demonstrators have been demanding the end of rampant corruption and irresponsible government. The government has utterly failed to manage the rampant spread of coronavirus. Some demonstrators are asking for the reinstatement of the king as head of state, the power to the citizens and, the probe of corruption and illegitimate wealth accumulated by some government officers and politicians. Other are demanding criminal prove to politically motivated corruption sponsored by the political parties in power and in league with opposition parties. Many people believe corona has taken down the all-powerful president of the United States; so, in Nepal, it will not only take down the government but change the governing system once again from the street.

Public health experts fear the rapid spread of infections when demonstrations are held without precaution. The chances of rapid transmission of the virus have increased.

Immigration Rules
Entry Procedure & Visa – Latest update:

On December 11, 2020, the Immigration Department issued a fresh arrival visa rules for all visitors irrespective of the type of tourism-related travel (trekking, climbing tours, sightseeing or family visit):

  • All travellers must have a “PCR test that is taken within 72 hours before they board the flight” to Kathmandu. Children under five years are exempted from this rule. This is a mandatory rule irrespective of any status.
  • Now all Nepalese diplomatic missions issue tourist visa. All tourists are required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in Nepal.
  • For visitors from countries that have no Nepalese embassy they can obtain a tourist visa on arrival; but they must carry with them pre-approved or recommendation letter from the concerned ministry to obtain on arrival visa at the port of entry.
  • The rules also say “All foreigners should follow health and security-related protocols of Government of Nepal.”
  • As usual Indian nationals are treated differently due to reciprocal treaty of 1950 even during Covid-19 situation. If you are an Indian national entering Nepal from India (New Delhi) with Indian ID you need not worry where your travel has originated or which national you are unless you get entangle in catch 22 situation. Indian national travelling to Nepal the Indo – Nepal treaty overpower Covid – 19.
  • NRN and foreigners working for the UN and diplomats can obtain a visa on arrival.
  • Nepal government issued a notice on December 22, 2020, that says travellers travelling from or in transit through UK are restricted to enter Nepal. (This notice was issued in the light of fresh surged of corona virus in UK)

The updated notice did not say about mandatory 7-day quarantine. There is no mention of the specific hotel for quarantine as in earlier notice. Though the authorities with the help of Tourism Board tried to put together some name but it seems it was abandoned later for some unknown reasons. The updated notice did not say anything about covid related insurance which was required for trekkers arriving before November 16, 2020. There is no strict compliance with the rules in practice except when written permission is required. That is when you know what you got to do and produce. Unlike Canary Island, Singapore and many such countries where tourists are jailed for flouting their covid rules Nepal has been a relaxed country with rules that are often inadvertently allowed to be compromised. You must also understand that in Nepal all foreigners are tourists unless they declare differently; it doesn’t matter if you are a student or in business.

Keep tuned to changes that will continue to happen until the situation becomes normal. Call us or write to us for detail. (https://www.immigration.gov.np/post/notice-regarding-arrival-of-foreigners-2)

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The challenge in high altitude treks in Nepal is incomparable to any destination in the Himalayas

Covid-19 is here to stay. Let us accommodate our life with the dire situation. When travel restrictions are eased, concern for contacting is reduced, life around the world turns into new normal, the Himalayas and its wonderful mountain will be still there waiting for your dream to come true.

Just remember

Nepal is the most inclusive and versatile tourism destination in the Himalayas

The challenge in high altitude treks in Nepal is incomparable to any destination in the Himalayan belt. Nepal is the most open Himalayan destination on either side and at both ends of the Himalayas. There is no restriction at all. And, Nepal has most ethnic diversity than any countries in the stretch covered by the Himalaya.

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