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Nepal Seeks One Million Visitors by 2020

Nepal Seeks One Million Visitors by 2020

Far too often, travelers strictly equate a visit to Nepal with the arduous task of summiting of Mt. Everest. But while the iconic, bucket-list experience enthralls many, it can also be prohibitive to visitors who have no interest in mixing their travels with x-factor-style adventure.

While Nepal does share a boundary (along with China's autonomous region of Tibet) of Mt. Everest—and, as a point of fact, eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world are at least partially located within Nepal—it would be a mistake to think trekking is the only reason to visit this mountainous region.

To help reinforce the message that Nepal is an equal-opportunity destination, with hard and soft adventure activities mingled alongside more sedate cultural experiences, the Nepal Tourism Board and Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN) have been taking their message on the road.

Working in concert with five local operators—Adventure Himalayan Travels and Treks, Asian Alpine Treks, Lhasso Adventure, Nepal Footprint Holiday and Unique Adventure International—the group visited travel agents in Los Angeles and Seattle last week and will bring the same message to Toronto and Montreal in the coming week.

As Nepal is home to 337 mountain peaks, these local operators certainly handle their share of mountainous adventures. But each is also adept at organizing so much more than trekking adventures.

Because Nepal is home to four UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites; 12 national parks, six conservation areas, one wildlife reserve and one hunting reserve; as well Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha and the Kumari, the world's only living goddesses, there are plenty of ways to explore Nepal at your own pace. And Nepal's trekking operators, which organize getaways for groups or individuals, can craft programs that range from bird-watching to white water rafting to culinary adventures to temple visits to snow leopard sightings and much, much more.

With so many options, it is easy to see why the average length of stay in Nepal tops 13 days.

Travelers seem to be getting the message as the number of visitors is growing. In 2016, total visitation to Nepal had reached 753,002 visitors, which although not a record, was a remarkable bounce-back from 2015 when Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake. By the end of last year, overall visitation had climbed nearly 20 percent, reaching 940,218 visitors.

Now Mr. Khadga Bikram Shah, Manager of the Nepal Tourism Board, says the organization has its sights set on reaching one million-plus inbound visitors by 2020.

A key part of that figure is travel from Americans, which makes up about 10 percent of overall traffic to Nepal. Interest from the United States is most definitely growing, with 97,146 Americans visiting Nepal in 2017. The number reflects a whopping 80 percent growth over the 53,645 Americans that visited Nepal the previous year.

That there's plenty to lure Americans is a message being reinforced by the entire delegation, in particular by Mr. Tek Mahat, head of TAAN, who highlights biking, white water rafting, fishing, bungee jumping, marathons, nature walks, meditation and yoga as just a few of the activities available to travelers.

For repeat travelers—which the Nepal Tourism Board boasts is a healthy travel segment—there are plenty of new activities awaiting them in the coming years. Among the new adventures on tap:

Great Himalaya Trails

A network of trails that stretches from Humla and Darcula in the west to Kanchenjunga in the east, Great Himalaya Trails connects the all of the mountainous regions in Nepal.

Dolpa Trek

Dolpa, home to Nepal's deepest lake, Phoksundo, is a place of legends. Locals believe it was formed after a spiteful demoness flooded a village to avenge a slight by Saint Padmasambhava. The lake, which hosts no aquatic life, has gained its share of popularity as a visitor destination.

Trail Running Nepal

Marathons and trail running are becoming a popular activity in Nepal. Nepali Mira Rai, who was recognized by National Geographic as their Adventurer of the Year in 2017, organizes races throughout the region, including the famed high-altitude, 105-mile Mustang Stage Race which takes place from April 14-26.

Lumbini Marathon

Also new is a spiritual marathon in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The new Lumbini Marathon winds past many of the most important places in Lord Buddha's life.

Kora Challenge (Bike Race)

In Buddhism, a Kora is a "circumambulation," usually done clockwise around a religious structure. For bikers, the Kora Challenge will offer the chance to circumnavigate Kathmandu in 50, 75 or 100-kilometer increments.

Measuring Everest

While it is widely accepted that Mt. Everest stands at 29,029 feet, the mountain peak has not been measured since the 2015 earthquake. What makes this measurement particularly unique is that it will be the first time Nepali surveyors are doing the measuring—in the past, it has always been conducted by foreigners.

Tiger Conservation

Today, there are just 3,900 wild tigers in all of Asia, with Nepal housing 198 of them, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Thanks to Nepal's careful conservation numbers, tiger numbers have been increasing since 2014.

"Nepal's exemplary track record in conserving its iconic wildlife makes it a conservation leader in the South Asian region," noted Professor Dr. Jonathan Baillie, director of Conservation Programs at the Zoological Society of London. Visitors can head to Chitwan National Park or Bardia to see tigers in their natural setting.

Luxury Offerings

Plenty of new luxury accommodations are starting to come online in the coming years in Nepal. Operators are also able to replicate luxury glamping experiences in their outdoor locations as well.


On the other side of the equation, homestays are also becoming more popular with visitors to Nepal. Operators often incorporate a one- or two-night homestay as part of a longer itinerary. Most homestays include staying with a Nepali family, cooking and sharing meals and occasionally participating in daily chores.

As operators reach the midway point in their North American roadshow, they are also giving away luxurious getaways to Nepal to one lucky attendee at each event. In Los Angeles, Asian Alpine Treks gave away a trip to explore the Gorkha Heritage Trek, a new, low-altitude village-to-village trekking excursion with homestays. The excursion is only offered by Asian Alpine Treks. In Seattle, one attendee scored a 10-day Annapurna Base Camp Trek offered by Unique Adventure International.

Reservations are still being accepted for the trade events in Toronto and Montreal.

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