Travel Agent Appreciation

Intrepid, Tauck Heading Back to Nepal

nepal_annapurna_valley-July29

Intrepid Travel says the first safety assessment of the Annapurna region of Nepal since April’s earthquake shows it’s safe for tourists to return to the region.

The assessment, conducted by Miyamoto-Earthquake Structural Engineers and carried out from June 25 to July 2, declared that the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary trails and villages covered in this study appear largely undamaged by landslides following the April and May earthquakes.

The assessment was proposed by Intrepid Travel, which co-ordinated the logistics and whose local guides provided assistance. It was funded by Samarth, a development program funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

“One of the most popular trekking areas of Nepal has been given the green light by experts three months after powerful earthquakes rocked the country. The first official report on earthquake-related damage in the Annapurna region has been welcomed by the Government of Nepal, trekking companies, and development agencies behind the assessment, who regard it as an important step towards the country’s economic recovery,” Intrepid said in a statement.

Tourism is Nepal’s largest source of foreign income, with more than 40% of the country’s 800,000 visitors each year coming for its iconic trekking and adventure activities. However, tour operators looking for reassurance on safety for travellers in the Annapurna region have had to rely on anecdotal evidence to date.

“There has been a decline in foreign tourists since the earthquake,” said Suresh Man Shrestha, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation’s secretary. “Tourism is very important for Nepal’s economy and for the Nepalese people. But, we needed to assess which areas of the trekking regions have to be reconstructed for the safety of our visitors.”

The report declared that the Annapurna region, located in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal, sustained “very little damage, with the 3% of buildings which were damaged in the earthquake all easily repairable.”

The assessment of the Annapurna region was conducted by a team of earthquake geotechnical experts, structural engineering experts, conservation officers from the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, and Intrepid Travel.

“Like many other tour operators we’ve seen a significant slump in bookings since the quake as travellers are concerned about safety in Nepal. There’s been speculation about the condition of the treks, but we believe that the industry needed a proper assessment to make decisions based on facts,” said Darrell Wade, CEO of Intrepid Travel.

The company is donating all profits from the upcoming season in Nepal back to support charities in Nepal.

(http://www.intrepidtravel.com/return-nepal)

Tauck to operate fall departures

Meanwhile, Tauck has announced that it will operate all scheduled fall departures of its “Northern India & Nepal” itinerary, beginning with its Oct. 20 tour. Tauck’s return to Nepal will come some six months after the earthquake. The April 25 earthquake occurred during Tauck’s March through September off-season hiatus for the itinerary, and the company had been taking a wait-and-see approach with its scheduled departures for the coming fall.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing Tauck guests back to Nepal,” said Tauck CEO Dan Mahar. “Tourism is an important industry in Nepal, and beyond the human and physical toll of the earthquake, a sustained downturn in visitation would compound the tragedy by adding an economic toll.”

According to Mahar, Tauck decided to operate its fall dates as planned following a recent visit to Nepal by Sanjith Mukund, the Tauck operations manager who helps oversee the “Northern India & Nepal” itinerary.

Mukund visited 100% of the sites Tauck features during its three-night stay in Kathmandu. According to Mukund, most of the serious damage in the greater Kathmandu area seems to have occurred in the outskirts of the city, in suburbs and in villages, and the most visible signs of damage within Kathmandu itself are modest piles of rubble that should be cleared before October. Dwarika’s Hotel, which accommodates Tauck’s guests during their Kathmandu stay, is fully operational and had already been deemed “safe for full operation and occupancy” by an accredited engineer.

The one heavily damaged site included in Tauck’s itinerary is Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is normally visited on Day 5. “Durbar Square” is a generic term denoting plaza complexes found near former royal palaces in Nepal, and Tauck guests will instead visit Patan Durbar Square. Mukund reports that of the many structures in Patan Durbar Square, only a few sustained serious damage. The rubble from that damage has been removed, and there is little evidence of the earthquake there today. Like Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of temples, idols, open courts, water fountains and more.

(http://www.tauck.com)

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