Travel support for Nepal continues as death toll rises

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The global travel industry continues to rally support for Nepal as the death toll from last month’s earthquake rose above 7,000.

Mount Everest climbs are expected to be curtailed this season due to damage caused by avalanches triggered by the 7.8 magnitude quake.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office reported that the road to Kathmandu Tribhuvan airport is open and commercial flights on regular carriers like Qatar Airways and Etihad are currently operating.

Specialist operators urged the UK trade to continue to support the Nepal tourism industry, with Simon Lowe, managing director of operator Jagged Globe suggesting that Aito hold its 2016 conference in the country.

The Pata Foundation has established a Nepal earthquake recovery fund with a contribution of $10,000 and urged donations to be made.

Many Aito members have set up their own appeals and donation pages. KE Adventure Travel raised more than £20,000 through Just Giving within the first day of putting out an appeal and the figure is rising.

Naturetrek, which had no clients in Nepal, pledged to match client donations up to £10,000, a level which was reached within 24 hours. Naturetrek raised more than £27,000 in a few days.

Discover Adventure is sending tents to the Manasalu and Langtang regions, to provide temporary shelter to those who have lost their homes.

Pata Foundation board of trustees chairman, Peter Semone, said: “Without question, we anticipate a great need for reconstruction of iconic heritage and culture sites as well as interventions to help people and organisations rebuild their tourism businesses.”

Aito chairman Derek Moore said: “It has taken a few days for many people to take in just how catastrophic the recent earthquake has been for Nepal; but the scenes of devastation in both major cities like Kathmandu and Bakhtapur and in rural areas, where entire communities have been wiped out, have brought it home to us just how cataclysmic the earthquake has been for what is at heart a fragile nation.

“Several Aito operators had clients in Nepal at the time of the tragedy, but all now report that their groups are out of danger.”

He added: “As always in situations like this, visitors who are travelling with an organised tour have benefitted from their tour operator’s expertise in handling crisis situations such as this, whilst it has been heartening to see the way the operators themselves have been working together to solve information and logistics problems.

“Several operators have begun raising funds to help Nepal; but then Nepal is the sort of destination where you cannot operate without forming a bond with the country.

“It will take a long time for Nepal to stand on its own feet again; we must hope that, when immediate events give way to a country ready to, and desperate to, receive visitors again, that travellers will return to the country quickly; this is a nation that needs tourism more than most countries if it is to return to some sense of normality again in the course of time.”

Roland Hunter, owner and founder of The Mountain Company, said: “Incredibly in the face of adversity, there were three things in Nepal’s favour with this disaster.

“One, that it was almost the end of the season so less people travelling and therefore affected. Two, that the earthquake happened in the middle of the day when most people were up and about outside.  Had it happened in the night when people were sleeping, the consequences would be a lot worse than they are.

“Thirdly, that the airstrip was not too badly damaged and emergency aircraft could still land and bring in aid quickly. It does not bear thinking about the consequences should the opposite have been the case with any of the above.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of Nepal and we hope the government can effectively use the aid being received to not only help with the immediate situation but also re-lay the foundations for the Nepalese people to be ready for tourists come September/October when the season starts again.”

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