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Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20

Nepal
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667 posts
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Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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This update may include rapidly changing info in the days to come, or maybe not. We'll see.

COVID Situation:

The rate of new cases has dropped rapidly. There are 17,500 total cases, but the government is reported mass numbers of recoveries and only 40 deaths. The high point of just a few weeks ago with 750 positives in one day, has turned into a daily norm of just 75-100.

This is largely explained by the fact most of those 17,500 cases were imported from India as 300,000+ migrant workers returned home in a massive wave between mid may and mid June. Community transmissions in quarantines made things worse. The gov quarantines are thinning out and people are in their villages where either: The community spread is low, or cases are going undetected. Both equally likely.

The other reason for lowering cases could be the relaxation of testing volume in many areas. Most test were previously done in quarantines where a peak of 165,000 people made it easy to find positives. Now that people have returned to the hills, getting people tested is much harder.

Lockdown

The lockdown has lifted to allow businesses to open, although very few have since there is - no business. Bus and taxi travel is permitted in small areas. Travel from district to district still requires a transit pass from the local CDO and is heavily restricted.

Airport

This is a tricky one. The airport suspension was extended for the 4th time to lift July 21. No word at all has been issued from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to indicate when the airport will open. One rumor last month started by a director at CAAN hinted at Aug 1. That sounds like it could be pushed to Aug 17, but here again...just rumors which as of yet, have never proven reliable.

The domestic airlines are not keen to start operating as there is no business. The government is not likely interested in opening regular flights as someone is clearly getting kickbacks to authorize the few charters flying about once a week to get people - out. Corruption is running wild right now across all sectors of the gov.

Travel Outlook

The biggest road block to restarting tourism comes from the lack of action on the part of Yogesh Bhattarai, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and....Aviation. He holds all the cards and is a terrible official. The worst. There has been no activity at all to address current tourist visa holders here, and certainly not any indication what they plan to do for future tourist visas.

There is no indication as to what arrival protocols will include when/if they open the airport for inbound travelers. They could mandate a negative covid test, pre-arrival visa secured at your local consulate, or even an arrival quarantine. They don't know what to do, so they have not done ---- anything.

This means, airlines, hotels, trekking agencies, and other services are unsure when or if things will open. Or, even if flights people book after the airport opens, will even fly.

Traveler Considerations

We're four months into the pandemic and Nepal's government has done very little on the travel front other than to issue lockdowns and closures. There has been no real support for the travel industry and the 40 million dollars that have come in to ease the pandemic problems --- are missing.

The government would have to make an unprecedented change of behavior and immediately start rolling out clear guidelines and policies to reopen tourism by even October. That seems highly unlikely. The pandemic here could continue to decrease in severity, and even subside, before the gov gets solid actions in place to get things moving again.

In the unlikely event they do get the airport open, visa procedures sorted, and inter-district travel open, I would not expect to find a healthy Nepal if you get here. More than 500 businesses in Thamel have closed, and likely half as many in Pokhara. Most businesses capable of surviving, will not open until they can be assured business will come. They can't stay open without revenue.

Lastly, stigma is very challenging in Nepal. It's one of the least attractive things about the culture here. Nepalis are shunning their own villagers and even family members they suspect of covid, and even recovered from it. Many places are not going to be excited to see travelers, so do not expect the warm reception Nepal is known for.

Summary

Do not get too excited if you hear the airport is open at any time. While a good start when it comes, it's only a minor step in the right direction.

Again - I would not anticipate travel to Nepal before spring, with the chance of a successful October-November trip at less than 20%.

19 replies to this topic
Nepal
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667 posts
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1. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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Maybe I should follow this up with good news. :)

I cannot overstate just how dysfunctional, corrupt, incompetent, and outright criminal the government is. However, the private sector, which actually includes the Nepal Tourism Board as it is an independent agency, are doing amazing work.

While some hotels, trekking agencies, restaurants and other services are content to just open, business as usual, when possible, the leaders in the industry have taken it in their own hands to create responsible protocols for safe travel. Safe also no means, reduced risk of cancellations, travel disruptions, etc. One thing they are not sure of is what to do with travelers who get sick in Nepal. You do not - want to get covid here. Again, you DO NOT want to get covid here.

Many businesses have already drafted their plans to survive and even improve in the year ahead. This could be the shakeup the industry needed as sub-bar businesses were far too common. The better, stronger, more professional businesses look like they will be able to reinvent Nepal's tourism sector, without the help of the lousy government.

Some things will get better -- in time.

Pittsburgh...
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2. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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I have never posted on the Nepal TA forum (and rarely post at all) but I just wanted to say thank you for the consistent updates in Nepal. My wife and I were hoping to make it to Nepal in November, but we never booked anything. At this point, we plan to push that trip back to November 2021. Regardless, I have appreciated the updates and outlook on the situation

Nepal
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3. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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@Philly,

As dire as the autumn outlook is, I feel pretty good about spring. We've learned more about time projections. Things we thought would take 30 days, took 90. So, with that said, if Nepal's gov and private sectors work to open by October, and they speak often about that goal, it's apparent we need to add another 60-120 days to the projected execution.

But...working with that 90-120 day window, things will have to start moving in a very positive direction by September.

I would also add, be VERY selective with the hotels and services you book. If it is of help, I can help align you with some of the more reputable owners who are actively doing amazing work to not just restart their businesses, but the entire tourism sector. Some great business owners are proving to be Nepal's greatest asset. They deserve the business they will get in the future. The rest...

Oodnadatta...
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821 posts
4. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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Nepal doesn't have a monopoly on corrupt government.

The government of Victoria has allowed the chinese flu to spread rapidly to the detriment of all Australia.

Uncontrolled religious gatherings at mosques and subsequent community spread has had disastrous results.

The army has now been called in to hunt down Victorians trying to escape to other states.

Interstate family visits are now not welcome as airports and flights and general travel are too risky.

It seems some folk in the almighty US are starting to think there might be something in this international pandemic.

Nepal wont have any Australian visitors until at least next July as our borders are closed.

Oslo, Norway
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5. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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More rumors in Indian and Chinese news that quote Yogesh Bhattarai and Kedar Bahadur Adhikari on “working on a tentative plan to start domestic flights from August 5 and international flights from August 17”.

Nepal
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6. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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@5 The meeting scheduled for today with Bhattarai and other heads was postponed until tomorrow, or later. I spoke with two higher level admins of two domestic airlines, and I think there will be some interesting dialogue between them, and Bhattarai who frankly knows absolutely nothing about Nepal's tourism industry. That's judging by personal conversations I've had with him, and his predecessor, who really did know what he was doing.

I'd say there's about a 50/50 chance of that Aug 17 date working as an open date, but that's just the first of many steps to get things moving.

The big question is what are they going to do with Indian arrivals. With India pushing into 3rd place as the worst covid hotspot in the world, and nearly all 17,000 cases in Nepal coming from India, that border will need to be closed tight.

5 posts
7. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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Quitou thanks a lot for the regular updates. Very appreciated by many people I believe. Hope the situation will be better and better soon. Thanks again!

Celje, Slovenia
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8. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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Quitou, thanks for regular status updates.

I see you talk with many people in different sectors, from officials to hotel workers.

How would you evaluate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on Nepal tourism sector? E.g. less accommodation options (hotels/inns closed), increase in prices...? People finding jobs in other areas?

I believe it was you in one of the other topics here on Tripadvisor that said tourism in future in Nepal is going to be different.

I hope Nepal finds the solution that works best for its people. Looks like tourism will have to wait a bit longer.

Edited: July 20, 2020, 12:43 pm
Nepal
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667 posts
3 reviews
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9. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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@8

It's important to remember, Nepal bounced back from earthquakes, global recessions, and a civil war, but every very successful business owner I know well and speak to often says the same thing, this is worse than all of them. Maybe combined. It doesn't help that the decline of tourism in Nepal started in spring of 2019. Fall was quite poor for revenue for the industry.

There will be rough adjustments ahead. The biggest will be with the youth rising up against the government which we saw this spring and summer. Even now a second hunger strike is going on to compel the gov to honor an agreement they broke to better address the pandemic. Oli and the government as a whole, need to be forced into action, or out. Now their lack of leadership is making things for the tourism industry, ten times worse.

With all that said, Nepal was on course to have major issues with over tourism in sensitive areas. Sustainable tourism will be forced on Nepal, and that's not a bad thing. For the last 5 years there was no indication that the growth of the tourism sector had a tipping point. Right now there are seven hotels in Pokhara under construction and six finished in the last 2 years. That was not at all sustainable.

The struggling businesses will go. No doubt about it. Thousands already have. There will be great businesses left behind to better the industry. With overseas jobs dried up, and a million Nepali workers headed home, many hope that will again infuse Nepal with more brain trust as young people with skills and education are needed to rebuild Nepal...again.

One of my very good friends is building a $5 million dollar resort in Pokhara where he owns five times as much property and businesses. He is like many who look to 2025 as the year things will start to look "normal." And that's key for people on this forum to understand. In the west, we all wanted, and expected, things to go back to normal in a matter of weeks. Nepal is used to protracted setbacks. Early on they were already looking at this problem in terms of months and years.

Oodnadatta...
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821 posts
10. Re: Covid and Tourism Sector Updates July 20
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#9

how can your very good friends expensive resort be the saviour of the universe when all the other developments in the same town are unsustainable

where did all the money come from? helicopter scams ring a bell maybe??

you endlessly ridicule all the government ministers but then make out you are the best of friends in detailed important discussions about every imaginable topic

seriously I have doubts that you ever have anything worthwhile to say

if you want death and scandal to sensationalise as a so called journalist why didn't you stay home and deal with the total dysfunction of your own folks

Nepal is no different to any other country - no one knows what is happening and when things will get back to normal

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