We all knew that the cancellation of the spring climbing season in Nepal would have a long and painful impact on the economy of that country. The spread of the coronavirus forced the Nepali government to make the hard choice of not only canceling the season, but closing its borders to travelers too. That meant that in addition to not having any mountaineers visiting the Himalaya this spring, there wouldn’t be any trekkers or adventure travelers either. Now, the grim reality of what that means for the tourism sector is truly starting to hit home as tens of thousands of people struggle with the loss of jobs and businesses.
The Himalayan Times has taken a look at the current economic conditions in the tourism sector of Nepal and the outlook isn’t great. At the moment, more than 3500 travel companies and 2600 trekking operators are shut down. On top of that, the Hotel Association of Nepal has closed all of the hotels until mid-November, which means that even if things start to open up again, there isn’t any place for visitors to stay. It is estimated that the hotel sector alone is losing nearly $15 million per month, which is a lot of money in a cash-strapped, developing nation like Nepal.
To make matters worse, 2020 was suppose to be a big coming out part for Nepali tourism. The country had gone to great lengths to promote all of the things it has to offer and was hoping to lure a record-setting 2 million foreign visitors this year alone. That goal evaporated quickly however, as the number of tourists was already down in January before the virus truly took hold. Since then, things have only gotten worse due to a ban on international travel and sealed borders.
According to The Times, tourism accounts for about 1 million jobs in Nepal and is 8% of the country’s GDP. Right now, experts are predicting that Nepal will see a reduction in visitors this year of between 45-80%. That’s a wide margin, but the true number will only be known as we get a sense of how long the pandemic will keep things shut down. Right now, most are preparing for the loss of visitors to be closer to the higher end of that scale. In 2019, the country saw 1.17 million foreign visitors. If the 80% reduction holds, that means that just 234,000 people will arrive in Nepal this year. That’s a far cry from that 2 million that were anticipated.
As with much of the rest of the world, the true economic impact likely won’t be known for week and months to come. The coronavirus infection numbers are starting to drop in many countries, but it will take much longer to get things restarted and on a course back to something close to “normal.” The fear of a resurgence in the virus is well founded too, as more people could be exposed moving forward. At the moment, it’s hard to know what the future will hold, but Nepal isn’t likely to be alone in its economic struggles.