Nepal&rsquos recent decision on trekking has stirred up the travel community. The Nepal Tourism Board has announced that foreign trekkers travelling solo or independently will no longer be allowed to trek in Nepal without a guide starting from April 1. This step has been taken to ensure the safety of trekkers, as there have been instances of trekkers being out of contact during their treks.
Travel Safety in Nepal
According to the spokesperson of Nepal Tourism Board, Mani Raj Lamichhane, this decision was made after considering the safety of trekkers. He revealed that the board receives around 40 to 50 cases of trekkers being out of contact during their treks annually. This sends out the message that Nepal is not safe for tourists. It has then become necessary to promote organized trekking in Nepal to ensure the safety of trekkers. The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) has been working to ensure that trekking in Nepal is done in a safe and organized manner. It has developed measures like issuing standard permits, providing insurance to trekkers, and setting up trekking routes with checkpoints along the way. This will ensure that trekkers are safe and can be easily tracked in case of an emergency. Lamichhane also explained that the board has now made it mandatory for a sole foreign trekker to take a guide.
Effort to Boost Employment Opportunities in Nepal
This move not only creates more employment opportunities in the country, but also promotes the importance of organized trekking. The Trekking Agencies&rsquo Association of Nepal has also been advocating for a one-trekker one-guide system since 2012, and this decision is seen as a welcome move by them.
Lamichhane highlighted the difference between free and independent trekkers and organized trekkers. Free and independent trekkers are those who plan their own trips and prefer to travel alone without seeking assistance from trekking agencies. These types of travelers are considered to be price-conscious travelers. On the other hand, organized trekkers are those who travel with the assistance of trekking agencies.
In 2019, the tourism board granted permission to more than 46,000 solo foreign trekkers, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to banning solo trekking for foreign trekkers, the board has also increased the price of the TIMS permit to 2000 rupees per person. Previously, people who traveled in large groups paid 1000 rupees for the TIMS card, while those who traveled alone paid a 2000. The TIMS permit for SAARC nationals has also increased to 1000 rupees. The decision has garnered mixed reactions from the travel community. Many feel that it restricts the freedom of trekkers, while others believe it would ensure their safety. However, with the increasing number of cases of trekkers being out of contact during their treks, this decision was necessary.