There is no question that the tourism sector in Nepal has faced some severe challenges in recent years. Following the 2015 earthquake, the country found much of its infrastructure damaged and in serious need of repair, even as the country struggled to rebuild after the loss of thousands of lives. More recently, Nepal has faced backlash and criticism due to traffic jams and a high number of deaths on its most prominent mountain, Mt. Everest. There have even been issues regarding the safety of trekkers and an ongoing travel insurance fraud scam that has cast the country in a negative light.
Despite those obstacles however, Nepal is preparing to welcome an influx of visitors in 2020, having declared that a "Visit Nepal" year.
Originally, the plan was intended to institute a major tourism push in 2018 to help lure more visitors to the Himalayan nation. But, those efforts were postponed because proposed updates to Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu were taking longer than expected, and delayed construction of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Lumbini hadn't been completed yet. Some elements of the transportation sector were also still recovering from the 2015 earthquake as well, which forced the Nepali government to institute a delay.
Now, it looks like things are on track for country's big coming out party.
Safe and Welcoming
The original plan for promoting a "Visit Nepal" year was to convince travelers that the country was still safe following a number of high profile disasters, both on Everest and elsewhere. After the earthquake the country's tourism sector found itself in dire straights in 2016, with only about half the usual number of travelers arriving within its borders. By 2017 however those numbers were on the rebound, and since then business has pretty much returned to normal. That allowed Nepal's Tourism Department to shift its focus away from repairing its damaged reputation and towards convincing new travelers to come visit its beautiful landscapes.
The message for 2020 will be to invite travelers who have visited Nepal in the past to return for another go, while also enticing those who have never been to the country before to give it a try as well. To that end, the tourism sector and the local guides and tour operators are emphasizing not only that the country is safe and accommodating, but has a lot to offer visitors as well.
Adventure Travel at its Finest
First and foremost, Nepal is a destination made for adventure travelers. Everyone knows that it offers some of the most intense and challenging mountaineering opportunities in the world, but it also features world class trekking too. Both the Everest Base Camp Trek and Annapurna Circuit are amongst the best hikes in the entire world, providing amazing immersion not just into breathtaking landscapes but the culture of the Sherpa people too.
Other adventure travel opportunities include a visit to Chitwan National Park, where travelers will get a chance to spot rhinos and tigers in the wild. The rivers in southern Nepal also offer excellent whitewater rafting and the country has a number of wonderful cultural and historical centers, including the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2 Million Visitors in 2020
The Nepali government has set an ambitious goal of drawing 2 million foreign visitors to Nepal in 2020. That would be about double what the country typically receives. In order to be ready for this influx of travelers, the local infrastructure has been improved and expanded, with more places to stay and eat available both in the capital city of Kathmandu and beyond. In fact, more than 4000 new rooms have been created in key tourist areas, with more on the way.
Additionally, the government is expanding the hours of operation for Tribhuwan International Airport, which has seen its capacity for handling larger aircraft increase as well. This should help the country –– which has often struggled with maintaining regular air travel –– prepare for the arrival of more travelers, providing consistency and reliability in 2020 and beyond.
In order to achieve the goal of luring 2 million visitors to Nepal, many of the travel companies, tour operators, and trekking guides are offering discounted trips for 2020. Additionally, over the past few years Nepal has seen a rise in the number of locally owned and operated travel companies, which means there is a lot of competition for our travel dollars. This can work in your favor if you're planning to visit in 2020, as there should be plenty of capacity to handle the higher levels of traffic.
Just don't be too surprised if the trekking routes are a little busier than usual and Kathmandu is more chaotic and crowded too.
For more information about the 2020 Visit Nepal initiative and to discover more options of what to do in the country, visit the Welcome Nepal website.