Altogether 1,059 mountaineers from different countries received climbing permit from the Department of Tourism (DoT) in autumn 2015 i.e. September to November.
The number is down by 23.5 percent compared to figures of autumn 2014 when a total of 1,385 climbers had received permit from the department.
Gyanendra Shrestha, who looks after mountaineering in DoT, said a total of 1,890 climbers took climbing permits in autumn season of 2015. Of them, 831 climbers received permit from Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) and remaining from DoT.
With an aim to increase number of mountaineers in autumn, the department, in May, had proposed to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to extend validity of climbing permits taken for spring 2015. Many climbers had returned home in spring without attempting the peaks following April 25 earthquake.
But the proposal has been gathering dust at the ministry.
“Number of climbers has fallen this year due to reasons beyond our control. The number fell in spring due to earthquake and its impact was seen in autumn — the peak tourist season — as well,” Govinda Bahadur Karki, director general of DoT, told Republica.
Karki further said confusion over permits regarding NMA peaks, fuel crisis, Tarai unrest and Indian blockade as well as Nepal’s inability to spread the message that Nepal is safe and ready to welcome tourists in autumn were the other reasons that led to decline in number of climbers in autumn.
Meanwhile, number of tourists coming for adventure activities like trekking and mountaineering is falling in recent years. Data shows number of tourists coming for trekking and mountaineering fell by 3 percent to 97,309 in 2013. The number fell by 4.96 percent to 97,185 in 2014 mainly due to Everest avalanche in the spring and blizzards in the Annapurna Region in autumn which claimed 48 lives. In the spring of 2015, overall tourist arrival was affected by the April 25 earthquake.
“If the government accepts our proposal to extend validity of climbing permit, it will help a lot in the revival of tourism as it helps in spreading positive message that Nepal is safe,” said Karki.
Tourism entrepreneurs also say that negative travel advisories issued by various countries, which ultimately increase their insurance premium, discouraged adventure tourists. “If we look at the overall arrival figures, which is expected to drop by 50 percent in 2015, number of people coming for mountaineering has not fallen by bigger margin. Adventure seekers love to take risk,” Rajan Simkhada, president of Earthbound Expeditions, said.