Why Visit Nepal Now? Limited Impacts of Earthquake on Tourist Hotspot

Keeping away from places freshly desecrated by natural disasters is a natural reaction, especially for tourists. Such decisions are usually accepted as well founded. Natural disasters, and bigger ones at that, leave hundreds of thousands or even millions of people homeless, without jobs and most importantly with uncertainty over future.

As for visitors, such post-disasters effects always seem worse than they actually are. Since news and individual social media buffs are focused more on the worst parts, the world jumps into the bandwagon completely forgetting that larger parts of the society that still function well. Such trends only amplify the negativities as it makes much harder for so many people and the society to get their lives back normal.

High level of dependence on tourism makes many people along with the overall economy and most importantly the social order vulnerable. Urgency and need to revive tourism for the sake of the nation is the highest levels imaginable. We must start bringing in tourists ASAP and the situation demands us to change the perception of people who wants to visit Nepal. There are information such people must know if we are to change perceptions.

There is no denying the utter destruction and its follow-up impacts but destruction is limited to certain geographic areas in mid-Nepal. Out of 75 districts, the list of affected districts is;

District

Deaths

Injuries

Damage level

Tourism Activities

Kathmandu

1218

7830

Min – Low Moderate

*****

Lalitpur

182

3052

Minimal

****

Bhaktapur

332

2101

Moderately High

****

Sindhupalchowk

3428

1568

High

***

Nuwakot

1061

522

High

**

Kavrepalanchowk

318

1179

High

***

Dhading

732

735

High

*

Gorkha

440

952

High

**

Rasuwa

596

771

High

*****

Dolakha

168

643

Moderate

***

Makwanpur

33

229

Minimal

*

Sindhuli

14

228

Minimal

*

Ramechhap

39

133

Moderate

***

Chitwan

9

143

Minimal

*****

Solukhumbu

19

104

Higher Minimum

*****

 

Note: 5* denotes high significance in Tourism activities & 1* denotes almost non-existent significance in Tourism; based on number of visits annually. Date extracted from officisal UNHCR report dated May 26th 2015.

As illustrated by the table above, 5 of the affected districts barely have any impact on International Tourism as such places do not have any known sites of interest to International tourists and annual number of visitors are extremely low to non-existent.

View of Patan Durbar Square after Nepal quake.

Patan Durbar Square, Lalitpur, Nepal.

Patan Durbar Square, still holds the charm and beauty after the powerful earthquake.

Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are famous for their Durbar Squares. Along with Kathmandu Durbar Squares, they are the most visited places in whole of Nepal for obvious reasons. In that sense they are as important as Kathmandu but as for commercial infrastructures for tourism, both Bhaktapur and Lalitpur are minor contributors. Kathmandu still has vast majority of the Hotels, Lodges, Restaurants, tourism businesses, airlines, International airport, public and civil service organizations to cater to tourism, workforce, financial institutions, etc. Death and Destruction in Kathmandu may have been the highest but the sheer size of population and density is also incomparably higher than any other place in Nepal. Hence, seemingly high number of casualties and damages has caused actual minimal impact in Kathmandu.

Krishna Mandir of Patan after the Nepal Earthquake.

The iconic Krishna Mandir at Mangal Bazaar stands tall even after that 7.9 quake beckoning us to stay strong. It can only get better from here.

 

Clock Tower of Kathmandu after Nepal Earthquake.

The Kathmandu City Clock tower, Ghantaghar, escapes unscratched from the wrath of that quake. The only mark that the quake left on the tower is that the clock stopped exactly at the moment when the big one hit, marking the exact time of the 7.9 quake.

As for the heritage sites of the three districts in the valley, there are substantial damages to many of the heritage sites. Some of old and loved monuments like Kasthamandap, Maju Dega of Kathmandu Durbar Square; Uma Maheshwor Temple & Bhimsen Mandir in Patan Durbar Square; Valsala Durga Temple and Fasi Dega Temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square completely destroyed and will require a new constructions if they are to be re-established.  Most of the monuments still stand or are only partially damaged that can be repaired fairly easily. 

Sindhupalchowk also shares the same characteristics but in a much larger scale as the Arniko highway remains the only motorable road to and from Tibet, it is also a transit district for visitors heading to Dolakha, Ramechhap or Solukhumbu. The district also scores higher as it is home to The Last Resort, a landmark for Adventure Sports thanks to its Bungy, Rope Swing, Rafting, Kayaking, Canyoning, and other facilities. Few other small resorts have also sprung up to cater to people in transit and growing number of adventurers.

Nuwakot district also sees minimal level of tourism activities within the district itself; it is simply a transit district for visitors heading to Langtang that sees third highest number of trekkers.

Kavrepalanchowk has one prominent and active tourist hotspot, Dhulikhel. Like Nagarkot, it’s the panoramic view of mountains and sunrise that bring in most of the visitors. The old town Dhulikhel and the vicinity have destroyed houses but vast majority of the buildings are still intact and functioning. Dozens of big and small resorts are functioning. There are buildings that have been reported to have minor cracks though.

Dhading district is virtually non-existent for the masses of tourists. Nepal’s busiest highway that leads to Pokhara, Gorkha, Chitwan, etc passes through Dhading and a common start point of Trishuli rafting is in Dhading.

Gorkha was the epicenter of the biggest quake among many and devastation is epic. A significant place for growing domestic tourism, the biggest of its attraction was and is the Manaslu Circuit Trek. By all developments, the trail was on its way to becoming a major one, with over 4000 trekkers a year. Growing stats stimulated construction of many new teahouses and lodges. This region will remain negatively affected for a while.

Langtang Trek Trail is the jewel of Rasuwa district. By far the worst affected of all tourist hotspots, the damages are so severe and extensive that it is very hard to image droves of tourist visiting the region for 2 years at least. It remained third most trekked zone for well over two decades. In 2013, langtang has just over 18000 trekkers.  

Dolakha, home to Rolwaling valley, another cluster of mountains, receives over 1100 trekkers annually. A low number but still a significant number for Adventure travel segment, Rolwaling is mostly popular among hardcore adventurers unlike Everest and Annapurna, popular in mainstream adventure market. Major settlements of Dolakha are also badly damaged but they are not in any international tourism maps. It is the devastation in the valley leading up to Rolwaling and Rolwaling itself that could put this valley off list of many planning to visit there.

Makwanpur is virtually a non-existent location in terms of international tourism with the exception of a sole resort on the hilltop offering panoramic view of Himalayas. It receives a few hundred visitors in a year.

Sindhuli is another non-existent area for international visitors.

Ramechhap is the adjacent district to Dolakha in east. Over 1800 trekkers pass through the district via a single trail, better known as Jiri-Everest Trail. Since the days of first expeditions to Everest, the trail remained the only gateway to Everest prior to existence of the Airport in Lukla.

A major destination in whole of South-Asia for wildlife safari is Chitwan. The tourist hotspots are unscathed despite a handful of casualties most of which happened in northern areas far from the tourist zones.

In Solukhumbu is the ace of all the tourist hotspots in Nepal, Everest Region.  Deaths and damages in the district are few and sparsely spread. Ever promising tourism has been the main industry there and driver for improvement of economy and living standard, infrastructure for tourism are constantly being developed and upgraded. Thanks to it, most of the building in the trail is new and modernly built. Despite extensive circulation of news and images of destruction, Everest Base Camp Trek Trail is intact and is able to organize trek in large numbers. Damages in Machermo may make Gokyo Trail a bit harder than it has to be as it is an important stop for acclimatization. Khunde and Khumjung are more badly damaged but it is not a direct part of any of the three trails: Everest Basecamp, Gokyo, Three-Passes.  Three passes trail will be off to lodge based treks as many tea-houses have been completely destroyed. Village of Thame and other overnights stops like Marlung and Lungden have extensive damage. It will still be open to camp based treks though.

 

Verdict
Besides Langtang Trekking Trail & Rolwaling Valley Trail and Manaslu Circuit Treks are the only hotspots that will be out of function for a period longer than desired, perhaps a year or two. It is important to note though, only Langtang from the above three is regarded as a major trek route. Annapurna Base Camp Trail and Ghorepani Poon-Hill trek are exactly the same. In Annapurna Circuit Trail, roads were temporarily blocked, which was cleared.

For tours and sightseeing, the three durbar squares have still a lot of offer despite damages to many monuments. Pokhara, most loved tourist destination in Nepal is untouched by the earthquake damages.

As far as tourism is concerned, Nepal is open for business. Tourism is the second biggest employer in Nepal and only when tourist are here will they earn a living to put this behind once and for all.

 

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