The Intrepid Group is preparing to begin sending clients back to Nepal, confident that it’s safe to do so following the spring earthquakes that rocked much of the country.
And Intrepid co-founder Darrell Wade says that those who do visit the Himalayan nation will further assist it in getting back on its feet financially.
Nepal – which has a heavily tourism-dependent economy – is eager to see tourists return, although Wade concedes some will be wary about visiting it in the near future.
Intrepid’s decision that it is safe for tourists to return follows an assessment by Miyamoto International, a global earthquake strategy, structural engineering and project management company, which, among other things, concluded that the Annapurna Region – one of Nepal’s most popular trekking areas – saw “very little damage, with the 3% of buildings [that] were damaged in the earthquake all easily reparable.”
Miyamoto also reported that there was only “minimal damage” to most accommodation and trails in the Everest region, another popular spot for trekkers.
The findings – believed to be the first completed by international earthquake specialists on trekking routes in Nepal – mean it should be “business as usual” for the Annapurna and Everest regions, Wade told Travel Courier.
Wade said Intrepid’s program will resume shortly and “be fully up to speed” before November.
Intrepid labels itself the largest trekking operator in Nepal and sends about 5,500 clients there in a normal year.
Nepal traditionally sees about 800,000 visitors a year, about 40% of them trekkers.
Wade said “iconic” Nepal’s appeal is so great that even those who are now wary about visiting it will do so soon. “If they don’t go this year, they’ll go next year.”
Kathmandu is a central to Nepal’s tourist trade and Wade said parts of that city saw heartbreaking destruction, with its popular Dubar Square being home to “amazing pagodas that are now piles of timber.”
“It’s less interesting than it was, but there are other historical sites that are fine,” he adds of Kathmandu.
Nepalese authorities have said they intend to rebuild collapsed historical structures, replicating what stood earlier.
Wade said Chitwan National Park, popular with those eager to see wildlife, was spared earthquake damage.
Intrepid is donating all profits from the upcoming Nepal season to Nepalese charities. The company announced fundraising projects after the quakes on that quickly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.