Tourism sector upbeat as Nepal throws door open to fully vaxxed travellers

Tourism sector upbeat as Nepal throws door open to fully vaxxed travellers

Nepal opened its doors to tourists on Thursday, lifting all pre-arrival testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers to recharge its dying tourism industry. All foreign tourists have to do is show their vaccine card, officials said.

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The Himalayan Republic has become the latest of a handful of countries to ease entry rules, according to government officials.

All Covid-19 control measures in the Kathmandu Valley were lifted last week after a sharp drop in cases.

Immigration director Narayan Prasad Battrai said: “Fully vaccinated international travellers only need to prove that they have been vaccinated to enter the country.”

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Unvaccinated or once-vaccinated travelers are required to have a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours.

Thursday’s travel protocol supersedes all previous regulations, including quarantine requirements, he said.

However, inbound tourists are still required to complete a passenger form issued by the Covid-19 Crisis Management Coordination Centre (CCMCC) at the point of entry.

“As the coronavirus outbreak in many countries is not over yet, we will continue to fill out forms and we have to do contact tracing,” said Sunita Nepal, a spokeswoman for CCMCC, which advised the government to drop the PCR test requirement. to ease travel.

The forms have drawn complaints for being lengthy and complex. “We have simplified the form,” Nepal said.

Countries around the world have been easing entry rules for foreign entrants as coronavirus infections decline.

Bhattarai said travelers leaving Nepal are advised to check with their airline, which is responsible for informing them of the health protocols and paperwork requirements of their destination country.

Nepal has reported 112 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down from more than 12,300 daily cases on January 20, according to Nepal’s health ministry. Vaccinations have also progressed well so far, health officials said.

As of Thursday, 62.6 percent or 18.28 million Nepalis out of a total population of 29.19 million had received two injections. Likewise, statistics from the Ministry of Health show that 21.74 million people or 74.5% of the population received the first dose of the vaccine.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Janak Koirala told The Washington Post: “With more than 62 percent of the general population fully vaccinated and more than 74 percent having received their first dose, now is the time to review the PCR requirements for travelers. .”

“Now, if a person is fully vaccinated, there is no need to get a PCR test report. Most people who come to Nepal also get booster shots.”

The tourism industry has long lobbied the government to drop the PCR test requirement because it is cumbersome.

“It was a welcome decision,” said Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Peaks Trekking, Nepal’s largest expedition organizer.

He said Nepal’s climbing season, the high-end tourism sector, has begun, and Thursday’s announcement would be a big relief for the tourism industry, which has never seen such a disaster.

According to Sherpa, demand for mountaineering, especially Everest, has not been great this year, given current booking trends.

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“It could be because of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Also, inflation is so high that people of all countries have cut their travel budgets,” Sherpa said. “We’ve had 50 bookings for Everest so far, which is good, but not as good as last year.”

Last spring, a record 408 climbers were granted Everest permits despite the panic of the Covid-19 pandemic at its peak.

While the Omicron variant did little damage to the country, the Delta variant dealt a serious blow to Nepal’s tourism industry last year.

Nepal’s tourism industry has slumped to its lowest level in 4-1/2 years and incomes have hit rock bottom, dealing a major blow to the country’s economy.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2021 annual research report, the contribution of Nepal’s travel and tourism to total GDP dropped sharply by 46.6% in 2020 due to Covid-19 related restrictions.

The London-based council said that Nepal’s tourism contribution to overall GDP has almost halved from 6.7% in 2019 to 3.6% in 2020. This means that the tourism injection into the national economy in 2020 is only Rs 13,200 crore, down from Rs 247 crore. 58 billion in 2019.

The total contribution of travel and tourism to employment also fell by 19.9%. That means 207,000 jobs will be lost in 2020. In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism in Nepal created 1.04 million jobs.

Spending by international tourists fell by 69.4 per cent to Rs 29.4 crore in 2020, the study said. In 2019, the total expenditure of international tourists was Rs 960 crore.

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Domestic tourism spending also fell sharply by 37.6% to Rs 80.3 crore in 2020, down from Rs 1,286 crore a year ago.

In 2020, domestic spending kept most countries, including Nepal, busy to some extent, the report shows. In 2020, domestic tourist spending will account for 73% of all tourist spending. In 2019, domestic tourist spending accounted for 57%, with international tourists making up the remainder.

In 2020, Nepal just launched an ambitious “Year of Tourism Nepal” with much fanfare, aiming to attract at least 2 million tourists, but had to abandon the plan after the initial pandemic hit the world.

A disastrous year ended with 230,085 arrivals. After a rough 2020, Nepal’s tourism industry has suffered further setbacks as countries tighten travel restrictions in response to a new virus outbreak.

Nepal ordered a second lockdown on April 29 as a public health measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Four months later, the stay-at-home order was lifted on September 1.

According to the Nepal Tourism Board, the total number of foreign tourists entering the country last year was 150,962, which is still a long way from the 1.19 million tourists in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arrivals of 150,962 in 2021 are the lowest number since the country received 129,329 tourists in 1977, a year ago when Nepal’s visitor numbers hit six figures for the first time.

The country’s economy is taking a hit due to sluggish output following a collapse in tourism. Its foreign exchange reserves are also rapidly depleting.

Nepal’s next-door neighbor, India, on February 14 waived pre-departure RT-PCR testing for fully vaccinated travelers.

Arjun Poudel contributed reporting.

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