Even though there are no overt signs of a health crisis, Nepal’s economy has already been hit hard and the impact is expected to worsen in the coming months as tourism collapses and air travel is further curtailed.
The Asian Development Bank’s ‘COVID-19 Economic Impact Assessment Template’ released this week lays out the best- and worst-case scenarios for countries in the region. For Nepal, the bank predicts a loss of up to $322 million.
The tourism sector has been impacted by travel restrictions imposed by Nepal and other countries, and airlines cancelling flights.
The government decision late Thursday, after the print edition of this paper had gone to press, decided to revoke visa on arrival at Kathmandu for nationals of all countries. Visitors will still be allowed to enter Nepal but they will require a visa from a Nepali mission abroad and also a Coronavirus-free health certificate. The visa rule be effective 14 March to 30 April for now.
The move comes one day after China cancelled all expeditions from its side of Mt Everest. The Nepali government has also cancelled all climbing expedition permits including Mt Everest for the spring season.
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Even before the government called off Visit Nepal Year 2020, the campaign was criticised for lack of international promotion and the money being wasted on domestic extravaganza. Although tourist arrivals saw only a slight drop to 101,400 in February, there was a 80% decrease in visitors from China.
Official figures are not yet available for March and April, but the travel industry is reporting widespread cancellations. Many international conferences and sports events have been postponed. Hotel occupancy rates are dropping at what should have been peak season. Trekking and mountaineering expeditions have gone ahead but there has been a 50% decline in the number of clients. There are also reports of cancellations for April.