Foreigners visiting Nepal need a letter from a trekking or mountaineering agency, which many say opens up the possibility of visitors being forced to get a trekking permit just to enter Nepal, even though they have no intention of hiking in the Himalaya.
“Since trekking and mountaineering are wilderness destinations, there is no point detaining negative tested tourists in Kathmandu, we should make it as easy as possible for them to get an immediate test, and head off to the mountains after landing in Kathmandu,” says the former chair of Nepal Tourism Board, Deepak Raj Joshi.
The seven day quarantine is also seen as making no sense, since visitors are required to arrive with PCR negative reports. If they are trekking on the Everest trail, they need another PCR negative report before flying out to Lukla.
“On the one hand we are telling the world Nepal is open to tourism, but on the other we are discouraging them with these absurd rules,” says Nabaraj Dahal, former head of the Trekking Agents’ Association of Nepal (TAAN).
Instead of sending a positive message, government agencies appear to be working at cross purposes, telling foreigners they will be sent back from Kathmandu airport if they do not have proper papers.
“The rule is that only trekking and mountaineering tourists are allowed, and they need a letter from the Nepal Tourism Board or ministry. Anyone else arriving without proper papers will be sent back,” stated Ramesh KC, Director General of the Immigration Department.
The result of such irrational deterrence is already evident in the figures for arrivals. Since opening up to foreigners on 17 October, only two trekking groups and 24 non-Nepalis have arrived at Kathmandu airport.
After angry complaints from tourism entrepreneurs, the Ministry of Tourism has recommended to the government to ease the restrictions, according to spokesperson Kamal Bhattarai.
The delay in deciding about India flights and foreigner arrivals is largely due to the transfer of Ishwar Pokhrel, the defence minister who headed the Covid-19 Crisis Management Committee (CCMC).
There is now no one in government coordinating pandemic-related policy. As it is, the CCMC was at loggerheads with other ministries for the past four months, often issuing contradictory and confusing decisions.
Landing in Kathmandu is only half the story, Nepali Times