Since the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 23 January, Nepal has seen the cases soaring without any proper effective measures, except the lockdown that was first imposed from 24th March. While travelling during the nation-wide lockdown was completely barred and all flights- national and international halted, various nations took proper steps for repatriation flights of their citizens back. Tourists from all over Nepal were transported to the capital city of Kathmandu and flown back to their respective homeland from the only international airport of Nepal-the Tribhuvan International Airport.
While the majority left Nepal, a few of the travelers preferred staying in Nepal which had only 1,000 cases confirmed until 28th May. Having adjourned the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, all the permissions for mountaineering expeditions and all visas were suspended. The lockdown, as seen globally, was quite effective in controlling the spread of the virus in Nepal, too. As cases were seen to substantially stabilize, banks and government offices started to reopen with proper precautionary measures to be taken. Finally, on the 21st of July, the lockdown was officially ended, with two-wheelers allowed on the odd-even basis and precautionary measures to be taken in all places.
After the lockdown ended, life started getting back to normal, with restaurants open with limited seating, some offices giving services and masks and sanitizers made mandatory to prevent against the virus. It was a sigh of relief to the locals and foreigners as they could get out again, to live life as it is. But, along with the normal life, the movement of people around the cities increased incessantly like the pandemic doesn’t exist. The local people started celebrating the festivals with a huge crowd of people not following safety protocols, leading Kathmandu as the epicenter of the spread. While the end of the lockdown seemed hopeful for things to return to normal, it was all in vain. Within just a couple of weeks, cases started soaring all across the country leading certain areas to be sealed.
Tourism which is one of Nepal’s biggest industries accounting for around 7.9% of Nepal’s GDP and sustains more than a million jobs was hit the hardest during the Corona pandemic. ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ that was officially initiated on January 1st, with the goal of attracting more than 2 million tourists to Nepal, generating around $2billion, had to be deferred, showcasing the ineptitude of tourism in Nepal amidst the global pandemic.
Even the touristic hub of Kathmandu-Thamel seems to be struggling with lack of their prime clientele- the tourists and majority having to close their businesses. This has also been the longest period that the world’s highest summit hasn’t been ascended for months now, given that Everest had previously been infamous for being overcrowded. The trekking arena has suffered equally as the mountaineering scenario. With inter-district transportation ceased, hiking and trekking of all kinds came to a stop, making the situations worse for the locals.
As a landlocked nation, airways is one of the major routes for tourists to enter Nepal, and having the flights canceled, international movement halted for Nepal. With rumors of flights resuming September 1st, there were bleak hopes of tourism to still bloom, but the government declared those flights solely for Nepalese citizens and diplomats, pushing back any hopes of tourism to bloom to the next year. 2020 seems to be the worst year in history for tourism in Nepal, ever since before Nepal’s hippie era.
However, business and tourism analysts have estimated the pandemic to settle down in the coming weeks with the government putting invaluable efforts to contain the virus and bring back life to normal. There are signs that the autumn season -September to November- which is the prime season for tourists visiting Nepal might still have expectations of tourists, mostly trekkers, to visit Nepal as there have continually been inquiries by international tourists about their upcoming holidays in Nepal. With the tourism industry in accordance with the government preparing for Covid-19 and developing contingency plans and various health safety protocols, Nepal will very soon be open for tourism.