Tour operators get government “OK” to return to Nepal this fall

Nepal EarthquakeFollowing the release of a government-backed report deeming it safe to travel in Nepal in the aftermath of this spring’s devastating back-to-back earthquakes, several larger tour operators last week said they would begin sending travelers back to the country this fall. 

Tauck, Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) and Intrepid Travel all announced last week that they will begin conducting departures to Nepal starting in September and October.

Additionally, the Adventure Travel Trade Association last week revealed the dates for its previously announced
AdventureWeek Rebound Nepal program, which will take place Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. It will serve as a familiarization trip intended to assure travel advisers that Nepal is ready to welcome travelers again.

“We’ve never had the outpouring of emotion like we’ve had [with Nepal],” said Darrell Wade, co-founder and CEO of Intrepid Travel, which took part in a public-private task force created to assess the damage in Nepal’s popular trekking area of Annapurna.

Despite the fact that Nepal represents a relatively small portion of most tour operators’ business, there has been an outpouring of support from the travel community for the nation in an effort to help it get back on its feet.

In order to be certain that it was safe to sell and promote travel to Nepal again, a government-backed assessment of the Annapurna region, located in the Himalayas in northern Nepal, was conducted by a team of earthquake geotechnical experts, structural engineering experts, conservation officers from the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and Intrepid Travel.

The government of Nepal released the report’s findings last week. A technical inspection of the main trekking routes in Annapurna concluded:

  • There was no damage to the 30 or so bridges that were inspected.
  • Of 250 buildings that were assessed, earthquake damage was found in only six, all of which could be easily repaired.
  • The Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary trails and villages appeared largely undamaged by landslides following the earthquakes.

The report also identified several areas along the treks and some buildings that will still require some repair and maintenance in advance of the fall travel season, but Wade said that, having been directly involved with the assessment, Intrepid Travel was confident in its decision to resume its Nepal operations in September.

Tauck and A&K came to the same conclusion after carrying out their own independent inspections of their Nepal programs.

“We have seen the positive effects tourism has had in helping communities rebuild after natural disasters and look forward to once again introducing travelers to this beautiful country and its people,” said Phil Otterson, president of A&K USA.

For Intrepid, which is one of the largest tour operators in Nepal, bringing some 6,000 travelers there each year, the re-entry into Nepal will be about helping the country rebuild.

The company will donate all proceeds from its treks between September and spring 2016 to recovery efforts in the country.

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