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Monday marks the first anniversary of the Nepal earthquake that claimed thousands of lives. Juliet Dennis speaks to the operators who are helping to rebuild the country's tourism sector
Tourism to Nepal is recovering as the country marks the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that claimed more than 9,000 lives.
Specialist operators report booking levels for the autumn 2016 season above those before the earthquake. One even predicts a ‘bumper rebound’ for 2017.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake of April 25 last year was the worst to hit Nepal since 1934. Villages were flattened and hundreds of thousands of people left homeless.
Signs of the devastation remain but the country is slowly rebuilding and early signs show tourism to Nepal is picking up.
The trade has played its part in the recovery through fundraising and awareness campaigns.
Most warnings against UK travel to Nepal were lifted in October 2015 although it was only in March that the Foreign Office relaxed its remaining warning against all but essental travel to some mountainous trekking areas in the north, including the badly damaged Langtang Valley and Manaslu.
While most operators restarted treks for the season from autumn 2015, booking levels were affected.
“The current season has not been great, although it’s not been as bad as it could have been,” said Geoff Manchester, co-founder of Intrepid, which runs more trekking tours to Nepal than any other operator and had 164 clients in the country when disaster hit.
“We worked really hard to get sales back. We organised for a Japanese firm to assess trekking routes and most of them around Annapurna and Everest were fine.”
The operator has raised about £380,000 to help rebuild tea houses and restore ecotourism to Langtang National Park in a tie-up with World Wide Fund for Nature.
Intrepid reported strong demand for this autumn’s season, with UK bookings from January to date 20% ahead of where they were before the earthquake. Its first UK agent fam trip to Nepal is taking place this week. Manchester added: “The destination is back on its feet and needs tourists.”
G Adventures, which had 156 travellers and 15 guides in Nepal when the earthquake struck, has raised more than £100,000, paying for 154 grants to rebuild employees’ homes, as well as helping with emergency efforts.
The operator said it usually sends about 1,000 travellers a year to Nepal but was targeting more than 1,500 for the 2016-17 season.
Managing director Brian Young credited the entire industry with getting Nepal back on track. The operator flew one of its Nepalese guides to the UK to talk to agents and their customers and explain how the destination has recovered.
KE Adventure Travel has also helped relief efforts, raising £117,000 and helping to fund 10 schemes run by The Juniper Trust.
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