Special Report: Intrepid appeals for Nepal quake funds

Special Report: Intrepid appeals for Nepal quake funds

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Adventure operator seeks industry support as it aims to raise £500,000 for Nepal’s earthquake victims. Ian Taylor reports

Intrepid Travel has launched an appeal to raise funds for Nepal and pledged to donate all its profit from its trips to the country between now and next May.

Nepal suffered a major earthquake on April 25, leaving a death toll now in excess of 8,500 and destroying 600,000 homes. Tourism is Nepal’s most important industry and Intrepid the biggest mountaineering and trekking tour operator to the country.

The adventure travel specialist sends about 5,000 visitors a year to Annapurna and Everest, up to 2,000 of them from Britain. It employs about 200 local people.

The earthquake’s epicentre was west of Kathmandu, but shocks were felt all the way north to Annapurna and east around Everest. Entire villages were buried by more than 3,000 landslides.

One-third of the three-million population of Kathmandu fled the city and hundreds of thousands now live in tents, where they will remain for the monsoon season. The rains are due to arrive this month and will last until August.

Rapid assessment

The tourist season runs from September to May, with the peak months from October to January, and Intrepid hopes to resume guided tours to Annapurna and Everest this autumn. It has pledged to donate its entire operating profit from the tours to charities working in the country, with the aim of raising one million Australian dollars (£500,000).

But the operator won’t resume tours until there is agreement by specialist assessors that it is safe. The assessments will be both geological and technical, examining roads, bridges and buildings.

A company spokeswoman said: “We hope there will be a rapid initial assessment by air and on foot, starting in mid-June and taking about eight days. Then there will be a break for the monsoon and a second assessment after that. We won’t take people if it’s not safe.”

Michael Edwards, Intrepid managing director for Europe, said: “We’re in constant contact with our team on the ground. There are still aftershocks, but we think mountaineering and trekking will come back quickly. We wouldn’t encourage travellers to come without assurances that the trekking areas are sound.”

Reconstruction effort

Intrepid had 164 clients in Nepal when the quake struck. Edwards said: “None were directly affected, but everybody who works in tourism has been laid off and the guesthouses we use need complete rebuilding.

“We support our staff financially, but there is no welfare and no provision by employers. Some of the charities we support will retrain people, for example for construction work.”

The initial funds will go to children’s charity Plan International. Other money will go to a mix of organisations, including local charity Keep, which works with porters.

Edwards said: “Trade support has been phenomenal. We’ll urge our trade partners to support the appeal in any way they can.”

For more information: intrepidtravel.com/return-nepal

To donate: theintrepidfoundation.org

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