China shuts Tibet border, Mansarovar pilgrimage hit
Kathmandu: Over 25,000 foreign tourists planning to visit Kailash Mansarovar through Nepal were forced to change their itinerary after the Chinese government shut down all border points in Tibet citing the recent earthquakes in the Himalayan nation, media reported on Monday.
Reports in the media here said the Nepali tourism and civil aviation ministry has asked the foreign ministry to raise the issue with the Chinese side.
However, the Chinese side has not made any comment over the shutdown. These 25,000 foreigners booked their tours for Kailash Mansarovar through 38 tour and travel companies in Nepal.
No tourist has, however, cancelled bookings so far, the Karobar national daily on Monday cited Kailash Tour Association chief Prakash Shrestha as saying.
Tourism entrepreneurs have demanded that the tour should be allowed even by opening the Hilsa point in Humla district. Shrestha says taking 25,000 foreigners to Kailash Mansarovar through Nepal will be a huge relief at a time when the tourism sector has been hard-hit by the recent earthquake.
The entrepreneurs have informed the culture, tourism and civil aviation ministries in this regard but there has been no breakthrough so far. "A total of 25,000 tourists are still ready to come once we give them the time-table," an entrepreneur said.
China has closed border points at Tatopani, Rasuwa and other places stating that there can be landslides and it would be difficult to travel or trek.
Shrestha said the entrepreneurs have urged the government to take initiative to allow tourists to visit Kailash Mansarovar by helicopter or on foot from Nepalgunj-Surkhet, the western part of Nepal that was close to the Hindu pilgrimage site.
Indian, Russian, Malaysian and other European tourists have booked fir the Kailash Mansarovar tour. Around 80 percent of tourists going to this area are Indians -- around 40,000 visit Kailash Mansarovar via Nepal every year.
The May-July period is considered the main season to visit Kailash Mansarovar. Nepali tourism entrepreneurs make all arrangements for tourists to visit Kailash Mansarovar.
Around 80 percent of these tourists remain in Nepal for 7-10 days while the remaining 20 percent stay for 4-7 days. Tourists visiting Kailash Mansarovar spend the most after those coming for mountaineering.
Entrepreneurs claim that over 100,000 people will get employment if these 25,000 tourists were to come to Nepal immediately. "The government must, therefore, facilitate it," said an entrepreneur.
Tulasi Gautam, director general of the tourism department, said initiative was being taken at the level of the minister. "The road to Tatopani has already been opened. We are trying to bring these 25,000 tourists to Nepal by any means," he said.