Guerrilla trekking in Nepal a new option for tourists

Nepal has inaugurated a tourist trail in the country that allows tourists to follow the trekking routes of former Maoist rebels in the country.

The department of tourism in Nepal unveiled the new trekking routes that cover the battlegrounds frequented by former rebels who were active during the decade-long insurgency in the mountainous nation.

The trek is aptly called Guerrilla Trek, and it offers 14, 19 and 27-day trekking packages. The programme will see hikers traverse the rugged mountains that the nation is known for, and cross rivers lined with fields, caves and villages that are centuries old. The current trekking routes were once paths that were used by insurgents to dig trenches and ambush government forces. With a peace deal in place and efforts for new laws and constitution, the government is trying to convert the Maoist trails into tourist trails and attract foreign exchange by opening them up to foreign tourists.

The route is being promoted by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), which said, ‘The picturesque bays and valleys, once filled with misery, are now awaiting tourists.’

The government has plans to include private participation in the development of the trail once it becomes popular with tourists. Initially, trekkers will be offered accommodation in small guesthouses and private homes, but it is expected that more hotels and restaurants will be developed along the routes once the trek becomes popular with tourists.

Nepal’s civil war cost more than 14,000 lives before a peace deal was reached in 2006 between the authorities and Maoist rebels.

The trail starts from war-ravaged Myagdi district and passes through other conflict-hit areas such as Baglung, Puthyan, Rolpa and Rukum, where many former revolutionaries still live.

An official with the NTB said, ‘Ancient ruins, mountains, rivers lined with lush wheat fields, caves and centuries-old cultures in villages like Mahat, Cwangwang, Chakewang, Khara, Pipal, Syalapakha, Kakri, Hakam, Khola Goan, Burtim Danda and Saank can be attractions for both domestic and international visitors.’

Tourism on the increase in Nepal

Nepal has registered a notable growth in tourists visiting the country in 2012, despite the poor economic conditions that are still hampering much of the world.

Around 377,043 tourists flew into Nepal in the first eight months of 2012, 16.3 percent more than the figure recorded for the same period a year ago, according to figures released by Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport. Last month alone saw an increase of 2.5 percent, with 44,571 travellers visiting the country. A healthy growth of 21.7 percent has been reported in arrivals from the South Asian region during the first eight months of 2012, in comparison to the same period last year.

Arrivals from Asia (excluding the South Asia region) have recorded a positive growth of 0.6 percent. Visitor arrivals from Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand have recorded positive growth, while arrivals from China and Singapore have taken a downturn.

An overall positive growth has also been recorded for travellers arriving in Nepal from the European markets, with arrivals from Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia and Sweden all showing an increase. However, the numbers arriving from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and the UK have all declined compared to the same period for last year. Tourist arrivals from Australia have increased, while New Zealand, USA and Canada have decreased.

Nepal has long been a favourite destination for travellers with more exotic preferences, as it is a country that is rich in history and culture and its mountainous northern region has eight of the world’s tallest ten mountains, including Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Tour operators in SAARC nations to jointly promote tourism

Tour operators conducting business in the SAARC nations have agreed to jointly promote tourism in the region.

A Tour Operators Conclave was convened by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India in New Delhi earlier this month, and in the conclave tour operators were urged to work with each other to promote tourism in the SAARC nations.

The minister for Tourism in India, Subodh Kant Sahai, said, ‘We must motivate each SAARC country in such a way that tourism becomes the focus of economic and political agenda. SAARC region has immense growth potential. If it could be fully utilized in all possible ways, the SAARC region has the potential to steer the economy of the world. The cultural diversity of the SAARC region is unique, and the combination of scenic landscapes, natural beauty, and ethnic multiplicity – only add to its international appeal. All these facts unite to make the SAARC region a great tourist attraction. In fact, most SAARC nations have already realized this potential at individual level but with a concerted effort, the success culminated would be many folds.’

The minister also lamented that the tourism sector still lacked due political and economic recognition. He also announced the launch of the ‘Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign’ that is expected to expand tourist activities in the region.

About 45 tour operators from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in the conclave.

According to official figures, international tourist arrivals to Asia and the Pacific are to increase from 204 million in 2010 to 535 million in 2030.

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