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Nepal tourism may suffer huge setback

July 17, 2008

Kathmandu, July 11: Nepal's tourism industry, recovering from a decade-long Maoist insurgency, may face a substantial setback this year as the Chinese Embassy halted issuing visas for tourists visiting Tibet through the Himalayan country.

An official at the Nepal Tourism Board has estimated that the country may lose some 20,000 to 25,000 visitors if the situation continues throughout the year.

Annually about 10,000 Indian visitors reach Nepal en route to places in Tibet, including Mansarovar. But, this season we have not been able to get a single visa, said Rameshwor Sapkota, chairman of the Association of Trans-Himalayan Tour Operators Nepal.

About 2,000 tourists visit Mansarovar through Simikot-Paklakot route in the western Nepal and Tatopani-Khasa near Kathmandu. Though China has officially lifted the ban from July 1, in practice, visas were not issued yet, he said.

China has closed its borders with Nepal since March to prevent Tibetan protesters from entering into Tibet in view of the Olympics, scheduled to start next month.

Although we got a circular from Tibet Mountaineering Association saying that Tibet was open for foreign visitors and we sold the package to our guests, they denied visa incurring a heavy loss to us, a tour operator said.

Due to reduced distance and easy route, foreign visitors to Tibet have been using Nepal as their transit point for many years. Kailash-Mansarovar area, Everest Base Camp from the Tibetan side and Lhasa have been the major attractions.

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