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Published on : Saturday, November 12, 2016
China has always come up with maverick tourism choices and this time it’s with Mount Everest. The south-facing side of the mountain is in Nepal and is more common amongst the mountaineers and tourists. Although the Tibetan north face is lesser known, it too holds interesting mountaineering history. In its new ambitious visions, China has outlined a plan for commercializing it.
In the former months of 2016, China opened a new paved road which is about 14,000 feet up the elevation and ends at the base camp parking lot. The new plan outlines to create an international mountaineering centre which will have hotels, restaurants, training facilities, and search-and-rescue services. They are also planning for creating a museum. so, if these amenities are established, it will be appalling to trekkers and tourists who otherwise complain about the largely undeveloped landscape of Nepal. And China also hopes that this new idea will help to bring economic growth to politically fractious Tibet, and also promote tourism. In fact, Tibet could be one of the best winter sports’ destinations and specially ahead of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Developing the area around Everest will help to achieve all these goals and maintain the sustainable tourism concept.
In 2014, tourism accounted for 8.9 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product, with trekking and mountaineering playing the most visible role. One estimate places the total value of the sector there at $340 million. Nepal’s government typically collects more than $3 million in Everest permit fees each year, at $11,000 a pop. Sadly, these fees were not planned and utilised wisely which gives China an opening. Corruption, mismanagement and safety issues are other contributing factors which are causing trekker tourists lose their interest. Climbers are required to pay “liaison officers” up to $3,000 to accompany them, for example, but a recent government investigation found that most of the officers simply accept the fees without bothering to leave Kathmandu. This contributes to a range of chronic troubles, including inexperienced climbers, overcrowding and pervasive garbage.
Safety however still remains the major reason. Just above base camp on the Nepali slope sits the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous expanse of in-motion glacial ice that has been responsible for the majority of deaths on Everest over the years. Also, inexperienced trekkers and overcrowding add to the danger quotient. With all these ideas in mind, it’s giving Tibet a second look for the chance of developing its tourism sector. China has started to aggressively restrict inexperienced climbers and would thus reduce the risk of dangerous traffic jams. The functioning liaison system of China is staffed by competent government officials who manage climbing teams and their waste.
On the other side of the story, this competition might seem bad for Nepal, which is already struggling to rebuild its tourism industry after being hit by a devastating earthquake in 2015. With many of its cultural treasures destroyed, some mountains and trails still inaccessible, and politics unstable, and it seems that it won’t get easier anytime soon. China is approaching the Himalayas as the Europeans have the Alps which is a better approach to high-altitude tourism.