Money and Mountains, How Mountain Tourism is Enhancing Lives

EverestHere are some facts about the mountaineering side of Nepal tourism that are real eye openers. A total of 48 mountain climbing expeditions came to Nepal in 1979 and the total royalty earned from them was Rs. 577,000. In 2001, 112 mountain climbing expeditions arrived, from whom the government earned royalties of Rs. 127 million, an increase of over 220% over 1979. Was the increased number of mountain climbing expeditions only responsible for this? No. Royalty fees had also gone up too, and most importantly (a shocker, if ever there was one!), one U.S. dollar was only worth 11.90 Nepali rupees then! In 2001, it was worth 74.65 Nepali rupees. Now, of course, it’s 100, more or less, and the number of expeditions every year has reached 120 on average, with royalty earnings being about 3.5 million U.S. dollars annually. The lion’s share of royalties comes from Everest expeditions.

Another very interesting fact is that royalties actually make up only a small part of the total income from mountain climbing expeditions. In 2011, 806 climbers paid USD 3.14 million as royalty to the Nepal government for mountain climbing, while they spent USD 11.78 million on other expenses The latter included staff and porter wages, along with high altitude incentives; accommodations and food; kitchen and camping equipment; local charges and fees; insurance; local air and surface transport; etc. Here, it should be noted that the above figures are aside from the earnings of Nepal Mountaineering Association, which has the authority to issue permits for climbing 33 peaks. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a fact that mountain climbing expeditions spend about 3.75 times more on other things than on royalty alone. Now, here’s another fact that should be taken into account. While the average income/capita for mountain climbers was USD 14,619.30 in 2011, the national average tourism income/capita in the same year was only USD 500.9.

Therefore, it must be accepted that mountain climbing expeditions have a big role to play in Nepal tourism. Not only because mountain climber per capita income is way higher, but also because a lot of money is spent on the local economy of the sites the expeditions are going to. I don’t know how true this is, but somebody once told me that international NGOs came to the conclusion a long time back that the Sherpa people did not need any more of aid and such things since they had already become pretty prosperous through mountain tourism. However, according to Tshering Gyaltsen Sherpa, an entrepreneur known for his pioneering work in developing communications in the high Himalayan region, and establishing the world’s highest internet café, there are many Sherpas who face hardships. This is primarily due to the exorbitant prices of daily necessities in high altitude areas. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubting that the locals of the Himalayan region have benefited tremendously from mountain tourism.

And, it is not only mountain climbing expeditions that have done so; the trekking expeditions are equally to be thanked for their contribution, and why shouldn’t they? After all, trekking in Nepal is famed worldwide. For instance, the Annapurna Circuit Trek has been reported to be one of the best 12 walks in the whole wide world according to the U.S. Travel magazine. Similarly, the Everest Base Camp Trek has been recommended by the U.K. Observer as one of the top 20 journeys of a lifetime. Indeed, trekking in Nepal is one of the most popular activities for all people seeking adventure tourism, and this is really good for the development of the local economies in the country since most of the money spent goes towards the local people running eateries, lodgings, and so forth. Now, efforts are being made to develop adventure sports like paragliding, canyoning, bungy jumping, etc., all of which are mountain based activities. In fact, Nepal is already regarded as the world’s fifth best paragliding destination, and the fourth to conduct bungy jumping professionally. Oh yes, Nepal tourism is rife with the spirit of adventure, whether it be mountain climbing, trekking, or adventure sports, with the common factor between them being the high mountains of the country.

Whatever activity you prefer, you can be sure about an experience of a lifetime, and also that your money is going to the right places, that is, towards the enhancement of living standards of the locals of the Himalayan region. Most certainly, mountain tourism at its best is what we say!