A substantial number of tourists to this small country come to trek in the high mountains and in the regions of the majestic Himalayas. Nepal’s prime asset, without doubt, is this great chain of ice capped peaks, which has eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, including the highest in the world, Mt. Everest (8,848 m). The cold Himalayan region is sparsely populated, and therefore offers a pristine natural beauty that is appreciated by all who go there for adventure and excitement. The country offers a score and more of great trekking routes all over the mountains, some of which are among the most popular in the world, such as the Everest Base Camp trek, the Annapurna Base Camp trek, and the Mustang trek. These treks offer spectacular views of the great Himalayan peaks, splendid natural scenery, and interaction with a diverse range of ethnicities, cultures, and lifestyles. It also helps to influence Nepal’s tourism.
Mountain tourism supports almost a thousand trekking agencies with tens of thousands of employees. Seasonal employment ranges between 40,000 to 50,000 individuals in various categories of support manpower. Mountain tourism, thus, is an important source of employment in a country as impoverished as Nepal, and that too, for people living in areas that are hard to cultivate. Mountain tourism is expected to provide the much needed cash input into the rural economy, aside from spawning other economic activities, for example, adventure tourism. Rural economies benefit the most from mountain tourism; these include income from providing food, shelter, and other incidentals. Mountain tourism remains the primary hope for accelerating the growth of mountain economy.
Mountain tourism, apart from contributing foreign exchange, directly benefits the government through income by way of peak royalty and by way of trekking permits. The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) is the national body concerned with all matters related to Nepal’s mountains and the people involved in mountaineering activities. This apex body benefits greatly through income derived from permit fees to 33 trekking peaks, many of which are very popular, and similarly, the National Park and Wildlife Department benefits through income from national park fees, including renowned parks like Chitwan National Park (with its rare one-horned rhinos and royal Bengal tigers), Bardiya National Park (especially popular to view the royal Bengal tiger), and Sagarmatha National Park (the world’s highest national park).
One other thing that needs to be mentioned is that, aside from the economics involved, the multitude of services that have come around mountain tourism has led to development of national expertise and management that is superior to others in the region. This is something that needs to appreciated, since excellence in service is what will further add to the luster of Nepal’s mountain tourism, and lure more tourists to visit Nepal.