Nepal’s mountaineering industry: Signs of revival, recovery still a long way ahead

Mt Everest. Photo: Unsplash

Rhishav Sapkota

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: Nepal’s mountaineering industry that suffered a severe blow last year due to Covid is gradually reviving, but entrepreneurs are skeptic about the complete recovery amid the raging second wave of coronavirus in the country.

The Department of Tourism has so far issued 665 permits for spring climbing season, bringing cheers to the entrepreneurs.

“Although a concrete impact assessment has yet to be finalized by the stakeholders, the alpine industry is slowly taking a turn for improvement. We are elated with the number of permits issued for this year,” Secretary-General of Nepal Mountaineering Association Kul Bahadur Gurung said when asked about the current situation of the industry.

Gurung, however, is a little worried about the industry going for a downfall yet again owing to the second wave of the virus.

Gurung added that the mountaineering industry, especially, didn’t bear the brunt as harsh as sectors such as trekking due to the fact that these expeditions take a considerable amount of financial backing and are adamant about completing them.

“We’ve seen a rise in the bookings this year compared to 2019 and 2020,” Gurung added.

The Department of Tourism has so far issued 665 permits for spring climbing season, bringing cheers to the entrepreneurs. 

When asked if the situation for the mountaineering industry is closing gaps to what it was in the pre-Covid time, Director of Mountaineering at the Department of Tourism Mira Acharya said the situation was not as bad it was last year.

“For big peaks, we’re in a situation similar to what it was in 2016. For small peaks, the recovery is not so encouraging,” said Acharya, “This might be because these peaks have very poor reachability and there is unavailability of trained manpower to facilitate these expeditions from the ground up.”

Covid impact

Nepal Rastra Bank has been implementing schemes to allay the effects the pandemic had on productive sectors.

NRB Deputy Spokesperson Narayan Prasad Pokharel stated that the central bank hadn’t done an impact assessment of the mountaineering industry.

According to the Central bank, banks have been given permission to reschedule irregular loans to companies that have been affected by a low influx of tourists.

“The Central Bank has provided concessions to the enterprises whose working capital loans can be topped off with an additional 30 percent of the initial loan without additional collateral,” Pokharel said, “For term loans, an additional 10 percent of the initial loan can be appended without any additional collateral.”

Legal hurdles

Nepal Mountaineering Association currently holds authority for issuing permits and receiving royalties for 27 peaks under 6,500 meters. Its association has been demanding that it should be allowed to receive a share of royalties for peaks higher than 6,500 meters.

The umbrella organization of mountaineering entrepreneurs has also demanded establishing a welfare fund to address their grievances.

Acharya clarified that legal hurdles needed to be sorted out to address demands for welfare funds and royalties.