Nepal Bucks the Downward Trend and Attracts Record Numbers of Tourists

A little less than three years ago, civil war ended in Nepal. Reuters is reporting that tourists are once again returning to the country in record numbers despite a global economic slowdown. Tourist arrivals grew 4 percent last year from 526,000 in 2007, the highest number since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953 and effectively launched the country's tourism industry. The government, led by former Maoist rebels who waged an insurgency against the monarchy for 10 years, has set an ambitious target of doubling visitor numbers to the Himalayan nation by 2011.

Prachanda Man Shrestha, the Nepal Tourism Bureau chief, said the government has designated 2011 as "Nepal Tourism Year" and has set a goal of receiving 1 million visitors in 2011. Tourism— a key source of income for Nepal— brought in $230.6 million in 2007 and accounted for 4 percent of GDP.

It’s not all roses, though— there are concerns that most of the money is going to tour operators and not to those living in the remote and poverty stricken areas where tourists visit. "Tourism must be expanded to rural areas so local farm and other products are consumed by tourists and the income stays in the villages," said Sanjay Neupane, a tourism analyst.

Tourism Ministry official Ramesh K.C. said the government has promised to spend 30 percent of the income from climbers and trekkers on community development.

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