KATHMANDU, March 10: Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine has left the whole world on high alert. With the world just recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict has again affected businesses and industries not only in both the countries but also in entire Europe.
Nonetheless, the effects of Russia's atrocity over Ukraine have also been felt in Nepal’s tourism sector. The Himalayan nation welcomed as many as 997 Ukrainians and 2,107 Russians in 2021. Following the conflict between the two countries, the number has been speculated to decrease this year. So far, 260 Russians and 41 Ukrainian nationals entered Nepal in January and February 2022.
As many as 742 climbing permits were issued in the spring climbing season of 2021. The Department of Tourism collected over Rs 714.85 million of royalty from permits in the same climbing season. Of the amount, Rs 661.31 million was collected from issuing permits to Mt Everest alone.
Following the conflict, a handful of tourists, including mountaineers from Ukraine and Russia, have already canceled their trips to the country for this spring climbing season. According to Thaneshwar Gurgain, Data Analyst at Seven Summit Treks and Pvt Ltd, the agency saw 30 clients cancel their spring expedition to the summit of Mt Everest. Similarly, 18 clients who had booked an expedition to other mountains and 70 trekkers also canceled their booking made at the agency. "Many were from Poland, Russia, and Ukraine," Gurgain said.
Similarly, Amadablam Expeditions has also not seen a single client from Russia and Ukraine this climbing season. Although the low decline may not be seen as an issue for tourism and mountaineering in this climbing season, the following climbing seasons may see a significant decline in permit issuance if the war continues to escalate in Ukraine.
"The number of permits to be issued for this climbing season has been speculated to surpass the number of permits issued in spring last year. However, the mountaineering community may see fewer numbers in the autumn climbing season if the conflict continues to escalate," Santa Bir Lama, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, informed Republica. "It is also less likely that any mountaineers from Russia and Ukraine will be climbing in Nepal this season. Although some tourists have canceled their plans to visit the country, the number amounts to a decrease by just two to four percent,” he said. Lama assured that the mountaineering industry would not have any serious impact due to it.
Similarly, Mohan Bahadur GC, information officer at the Department of Tourism, said that the government has already started issuing permits for this climbing season. Although the conflict in Europe has not affected the country's tourism and mountaineering so far, he says there is a possibility of Nepal facing the ripple effects of the war.
Despite the assurances from government bodies and communities regarding a good start in the post-pandemic year, there are little to no promises about the unforeseen future. Tourism entrepreneurs and workers seek initiatives to be implemented in order to keep sustaining their businesses.
“The tourism and mountaineering profession has become insecure for stakeholders. The government needs to focus on job securing protocols and decrease taxes for hotel and tourism entrepreneurs to accelerate the revival of the tourism economy,” Gurgain said. “The pandemic affected employment, hotels, small businesses and even communities who were working in the tourism sector. Many Sherpas are highly dependent on mountaineering. The slowly reviving sector would see many tourism entrepreneurs leave the sector and settle for another mode of business if the tourism and mountaineering sector continues to bring a loss. Those who can withstand the impact will continue to work in the sector, others will look for options,” he added..
Meanwhile, Nepal has welcomed a good number of tourists since the start of 2022. A total of 16,975 foreigners arrived in Nepal in the month of January. Similarly, 19,766 foreigners arrived in February. A total of 414 peaks have been opened for mountaineering in Nepal. Of them, 75 are still unclimbed.