Kathmandu, 15 June 2015 - Major reconstruction work and in-depth assessments are underway in Nepal to build-back-better and get the Himalayan nation ready for the upcoming tourist season.
The two earthquakes that shook parts of Nepal on 25 April and 12 May 2015 have brought damage to 14 of the 75 districts of the country, and even though the devastation is extensive in some regions, many areas remain relatively unscathed and are fit for tourists to visit in autumn 2015.
“Our nation is working hard to make Nepal a safer place,” says tour operator Raj Gyawali, who has been in the industry for more than a decade. “The tourist district Thamel has been relatively unaffected. Damaged hotels are getting a full structural assessment and are being restored to an even better condition than before.” Under the assessment project, engineers have marked safe buildings with a green sticker and started demolishing those deemed unsafe in and around the Kathmandu Valley.
Damaged sites, such as the historic Kathmandu Durbar Square, have partly been reconstructed and opened for tourists on 15 June. The main roads and air transport links are operational and life is getting back to normal in many areas. “Nepal is a wonderful country and one of the best qualities of the Nepali people is their hospitality. They are very resilient and are working hard to get their country back on the international tourism agenda,” says Katja Staartjes, a Dutch mountaineer and a Goodwill Ambassadors to aid tourism, emphasising the need for this source of income to return to the country.
Many trekking areas have seen little damage and, if the monsoon rains do not trigger landslides in these areas, trekking will be as safe as it was before the quake. “Apart from Langtang, Rolwaling and Manaslu, we do not see much of a problem with other trails, such as the Everest Base Camp Trek,” says Swiss geologist Erwin Scheibert, who is assessing the routes in the affected areas for the Local Road Improvement Programme (LRIP) in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Other places further in the west, such as the popular wildlife parks Chitwan and Bardia, the lakeside town of Pokhara and the much-visited Annapurna trekking region have also escaped widespread damage, and are ready for visitors to showcase their abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini, did not suffer damage and is thankfully all set to welcome visitors back to its sacred soil.
Tourism is a big contributor to the Gross Domestic Product of the Himalayan nation, directly supporting almost 500,000 jobs in 2014. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) this figure was due to rise to almost 700,000 in the coming ten years. “With tourists not coming to Nepal even more people will be forced to leave the country, which will be devastating for the future of our country,” Gyawali continues.
The Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS) says that around 2.2 million Nepalis, which constitutes about 10 per cent of the population, have opted to leave the country to work abroad in order to provide the necessary means to feed their families.
For more information, please contact NepalTourismRecovery@groups.facebook.com or visit www.facebook.com/groups/NepalTourismRecovery
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