COVID-19 has changed the view of the entire world. Every country has been adversely affected by the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Originated from Wuhan, China; the novel coronavirus blew out so rapidly that no country has time even to think except a major hectic decision: LOCKDOWN. The majority of the countries initiated the nationwide lockdown as the number of infected cases was skyrocketing in no time. All the sectors were affected by this step but the TOURISM INDUSTRY got shattered as it is one of the major sources of national revenue. Nepal is one of those countries. Nepal, a popular tourist destination in the world, got a hard hit when Tourism was totally shut down. Adventure tourism of Nepal mainly focused on trekking, climbing, hiking, rafting, etc. was stopped due to COVID-19.
Impact of COVID-19 on Tourism Industry:
The tourism industry of Nepal sustains the economy of Nepal. Many livelihoods are dependent on the tourism business starting from a travel guide to the stakeholders running renowned travel and tour companies. As the spread of COVID-19 began, the country started getting into a shutdown mode due to which many tourists canceled their trips to Nepal and many tourists were trapped in Nepal as the flights were postponed to an unknown duration. The influx of tourists became nil as the country announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, 2020.
Due to this sudden and devastating pandemic, the Travel and Tourism industry has been the most hard-hit. The porters, drivers, helpers, tour guides, trekking guides, etc. now are in a state of struggle for existence. The social distancing and staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have affected the social lives of daily wage workers adversely that they are unable to sustain with their family. With an expectation that this COVID-19 will come to an end soon, the people directly or indirectly linked to the tourism sector have been eagerly waiting for the government's positive attitude and initiation towards a green signal to let open the borders but with all the necessary safety precautions.
Effect of COVID-19 in Trekking:
Trekking is a vital part of the Tourism industry in Nepal. Trekking to the Himalayas of Nepal has been a dream adventure of many souls all over the world. Stepping on to Everest or achieving victory reaching the top of the world is a wish of every mountaineer or trekker. As Nepal was under a nationwide lockdown protocol to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the trekking destinations were calm and quiet. During the lockdown, there were and are many queries regarding the opening of booking for this season of 2020.
The Nepalese government has announced recently to resume the national as well as international flights starting from August 17. This has boosted the tourism sector and the bookings have been started. Even though the borders are opened via land or air, there are guidelines regarding the COVID-19 test and safety measures to be followed. The government is still researching, processing, and assembling the information in which countries can be given a permit to enter Nepal. In a way, this is a step-wise opening of lockdown. Not all the nations of the world can enter Nepal in this present context.
Travel agencies and companies have made themselves ready enough to welcome guests. They have made sure that the hygiene in camps will be highly maintained and taken care of. Only a limited number of guests can be allotted a single tent. For this COVID-19 prevention strategy, it is implied to carry its own bed sheet, pillow, sleeping bag, or blanket so that the borrowing or using common equipment can be halted right away. Trekkers or mountaineers have to increase the hygienic practices so that the risk of COVID-19 pandemic can be reduced as much as possible. It will be the best step to undergo the COVID-19 test for your safety as well as the people of the destination where you are trekking to.
Trekking post lockdown will surely be conducted but in smaller groups for maintaining social distancing but it won't affect the enthusiasm and the excitement of trekking. But the travel and tour companies who will be organizing the trekking or other adventurous packages will surely have to mitigate and compromise with their guests in order to follow the guidelines and make sure to attract the market as well. Trekkers now have to prepare themselves for real trekking adventures as earlier days as many countries are now opening their borders to resume the Travel and Tours.
Let's Imagine Trekking from August – September onwards…
For the past 4-5 months, everyone has been imagining the days after lockdown ends and finally one can return to normal daily life as previously. Many trekkers were psychologically as well as physically frustrated that this year would go in vain without trekking the mountains. But never give up. This lockdown is about to end soon but one has to be physically and emotionally fit enough to restart the trekking or climbing. That's why one must continue doing regular training or physical exercises and keep up the diet plan in order to be in the shape of climbing up high.
There will surely be not drastic changes in the trekking scenario post lockdown but the number of members in a group will be small and the trekking routes may not be crowded. The guesthouses might not facilitate many guests to keep up the social distancing protocols. Since many countries are planning and some have even opened up already for entry of tourists, one has to be self-prepared and self-protected to fight against COVID-19. August-September is the peak season of trekking in Nepal. So expecting a good inflow of tourists this year, Nepal is getting ready in a joint effort of the government and the stakeholders to provide the best facilities and safety measures to ensure the prevention of COVID-19 and also maintain the level of facilities to be provided to satisfaction level. It might take some time to raise to the previous level but Nepal will surely find its way to the top once again.
Author: Step On Himalaya
Date: 29th July, 2020