For the first time in seven months, Nepal is reopening to foreign visitors. Tourism is a huge source of income for Nepal, so despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and a shortage of hospital beds in the country, they’re looking for ways to safely welcome back visitors. The reopening has some fairly harsh restrictions, however, and only applies to those looking to enter Nepal for climbing or trekking.
Rudra Singh Tamang, the director-general of Nepal’s Department of Tourism, told the Associated Press: “We are not opening the country for all visitors and only mountaineers and trekkers who have taken prior permit will be allowed to come to Nepal. We are opening to a sector of visitors who we know we can handle and manage.”
To enter the country, visitors must get prior approval by providing the details of their itinerary, hiring a local outfitting company, and showing proof of health insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment. Visitors are also required to take a COVID-19 test before leaving their home country, quarantine for one week at a hotel in Kathmandu upon arrival, and then take another test before being allowed up the mountain. Local guides are also required to take COVD-19 tests and prove they have been living in an infection-free area for two weeks.
According to Tamang, “We are trying to revive the tourism industry that was badly hit by the pandemic, but we are not taking any changes or any risks. We did a test run just recently with a foreign expedition team and now have a good idea how to manage the adventure tourists.”
Nepal’s tourism industry employs 800,000 people, and many have been negatively impacted by the closure. Even though the resumption of tourism is piecemeal, it’s good news to tourism workers excited to welcome visitors back to the mountains.