The April 2015 Earthquake

On 25 April 2015, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale hit central Nepal. 

It killed over 9,000, injured 23,000 and caused in excess of US$5 billion of damage (about 25% of Nepal’s GDP).  In addition, the earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 19 people – the most ever to have perished on the mountain in a single day. 

The immediate human cost of the earthquake was extreme: villages were flattened, thousands of houses were destroyed, people in remote areas were cut-off from relief efforts, and sanitary services were severely affected. 

Things could have been even worse: the epicentre of the earthquake was 81 kilometres west of Kathmandu. 

The effect on tourism

Tourism, which makes up 25% of Nepal’s economy, was initially badly hit. Holidays were understandably cancelled and tourists in Nepal left as soon as they were able to arrange a flight. 

Several important monuments, such as pagodas on Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, and important temples in Patan and Bhaktapur, were demolished.  The most significant loss was the collapse of the 183 year-old Dharahara Tower, whose nine-stories had previously watched over Kathmandu.  On the other hand, the world-famous Boudhanath, Pashputinath and Swayambhunath Temples more or less survived. 

Fortunately, the world responded with an unprecedented relief effort.  The UK’s contribution—US$130 million in total, US$79 million generated by public donation—was particularly generous. 

In addition, extensive works are underway to rebuild or repair the monuments damages by the earthquake, though it is estimate that it will cost US$200 million in all.

Should tourists still visit Nepal? 

The UK foreign office does not advise against travel on the basis that Nepal is at earthquake risk, though it does recommend familiarising yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake. 

Reports from Nepal state that rubble has been cleared and the tourist areas of Khatmandu, Patan, Hkahtapur, Pokhara and Chitwan are just about back to normal – there are no food or water shortages, and hoteliers with lots of empty rooms will welcome you with open arms. 

A Japanese structural engineering company, Miyamoto, has conducted an analysis of the major trekking regions.  It reports that only 17% of buildings in the Everest region suffered light damage – a figure that falls to 3% for the Annapurna region. 

Both the Everest and Annapurna regions have reopened for trekking and climbing. Reports also suggest that Langtang Valley, Manaslu Circuit, and the Helambu region are open for business.

The Nepali government has issued a press release encouraging tourists to visit the country.  And Darrell Wade, the chief executive of Intrepid Travel, announced after a September 2015 visit to Nepal that his company would resume its Nepalese itineraries. 

Then, on 15 October 2015, the Nepali embassy in Beijing and over 100 tour operators issued a joint press statement with the hearding: Nepal is Safe to Visit.

Everest scaled on 11 May 2016

More welcome news for the Nepalese tourist industry emerged on 11 May 2016, when nine Sherpas summitted Everest. This was the first successful ascent since the earthquake and was particularly significant as the Sherpas laid ropes and equipment for the busy May climbing season. This success was swiftly followed on 12 May 2016 by the successful ascent of three foreigners—including British climber Kenton Cool, who ascended for the 12th time—together with their three sherpas.

The Nepali government has issued 289 permits to climb Everest this year.

Nepal's new constitution

Of more concern at present are protests and strikes that have resulted from disagreements about the drafting of Nepal’s new constitution.  The army have been deployed to some areas and some curfews are in place.  Check the latest travel advice before you fly and be sure to buy adequate travel insurance.