The Daily Telegraph - Tourism vital for Nepal’s recovery
May 9, 2015

It is two weeks since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal, from the capital Kathmandu to the trekking regions of Langtang up to Everest Base Camp. Yet the picture is very mixed across the country. Some villages have been devastated while other regions are unaffected.

Many tourists caught in Nepal at the time of the earthquake followed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) advice: ‘if you can leave Nepal safely then you should do so.’ The FCO is still advising against all but essential travel, highlighting the risk of aftershocks, as well as landslides and flooding. But tour operators this week urged travellers not to abandon the country.

Rowan Paterson of the Ultimate Travel Company has been sending clients to the Himalayas for more than 35 years. They are offering a full refund to anyone who wants to cancel, but believe that by the autumn, things should b be fully operational again and have deferred trips without charge. “Undoubtedly, there will still be evidence of the earthquake’s consequences but Nepal, more than ever, needs our support,” he says.

Shiv Raj Thapa, managing director of Summit Nepal Trekking, one of the country’s biggest agents, says people should not automatically change their travel plans. “Ask your agents for an assessment on the area where you are supposed to be travelling,” he urges. “If the reports are reassuring, I see no reason for cancelling or postponing a trip. Lots of livelihoods depend on tourism.”

Some areas are off-limits. Officials say Mount Everest is "almost impossible" as routes are damaged. At least 19 people were killed in avalanches in the area; most climbers have abandoned their expeditions.

Between now and the start of the next trekking season in October, travel associations and trekking agents aim to send out teams into the field to assess damage and repair trails. “Sending donations and relief materials is not enough,” Thapa continues. “It is tourism which creates the major share of employment in this country and what is needed to rebuild the nation.”

Beyond trekking, there are also other reasons to travel to Nepal. Sangeeta Prasai, a city guide in Kathmandu, says much of the cultural heritage remains intact. “People get scared of what they see on television but many areas are unaffected. Tourists can still come and visit World Heritage Sites, see Chitwan’s wildlife and Pokhara’s beautiful mountain scenery.”

Marcus Cotton, managing director at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, agrees that travellers may be able to push on with certain travel plans. “A standard Kathmandu-Chitwan-Pokhara trip can go ahead,” he says. “Remember your very presence will provide moral support for the country and boost the economy.”

The earthquake will certainly affect travellers’ decision-making. “How long that might be is difficult to estimate,” says Paterson, “but we have clients who are questioning the wisdom and safety of travelling to Nepal next year and beyond.”

Jyoti Upadhyay, marketing manager at Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu, hopes any hesitation will be short-lived. “Summer is generally when the tourism industry here takes a breather and it will be particularly marked this year. But it is also a good time for the country to reflect and regain strength to rebuild Nepal.”

Michelle Jana Chan was trekking in the Lamjung area, 20km from the epicentre, when the earthquake hit.