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Now support staff mandatory for trekkers

Tourists traveling to any trekking destination will have to take at least a support staff (porter or guide) with them from September. Government officials say the decision has been taken for the safety of tourists.

According to a recent policy decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs, tourists, who want to trek solo in Nepal, must hire at least a porter or a guide. Trekkers traveling in groups are already required to take the service of government registered trekking agencies. Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) has welcomed the decision and urged the government to include the decision in the Tourism Act for effective implementation. "The decision will help promote Nepal as a safe destination for tourists at a time when international media are questioning the safety of foreigners in Nepal," Mohan Lamsal, general secretary of TAAN, said.

Recent murder of a Belgian trekker in Langtang National Park along with some other cases of disappearance of trekkers have created negative image of Nepal in international market, according to Lamsal.Rana Bahadur Khadka, first vice-president of TAAN, said the new policy decision means all trekkers will have to take the service of government registered trekking agencies. He said this will control illegal operation of trekking business. According to trekking operators, the new policy change will increase budget of FITs by only around $10 per day. "This is a very nominal amount and it won´t affect tourist arrivals," Anjan Thapa, treasurer of TAAN, said. The Ministry of Home Affairs had taken the decision earlier this month following mounting pressure from tourism entrepreneurs, diplomatic missions and kin of missing tourists.

Etihad Airways flying to Kathmandu from October

Etihad Airways (EA), the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is planning to start its scheduled flights between Dubai and Kathmandu by the end of October 2007. This was disclosed by Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, Labour Minister of the UAE while wrapping up his three-day official visit to Nepal recently. The new development came in the heels of the signing of a bilateral labour pact between Nepal and the UAE. Kaabi said that the UAE was keen in expanding its ties with Nepal on trade, tourism and investment besides importing migrant workers. According to him, the UAE will soon set up a liaison office in Kathmandu to facilitate labour traffic and recruitment operations. When the new airline operates its flights, this will be fourth airline from the Gulf region flying to Nepal.

IMAX team returns to Everest

The team of IMAX Everest Film has been in Nepal to film another film 'Return to Everest'. The team has come to the country after 10 years. The nine member team, led by Greg MacGillivray, the director and producer of IMAX Everest Film, left for Everest Base Camp on Sunday (April 22, 2007). Produced in 1996, the film was very popular among the viewers across the world. The team, which hails from Los Angeles of the United States, is well-known for producing the film on Mt. Everest.

The film was produced at a cost of US$ 8 million and was screened in 180 IMAX theaters of 27 different countries. The film incorporated all expedition activities up to Everest summit. It also depicted the Sherpa culture and various challenging aspects of mountaineering. The team is planning to incorporate all the technical developments required for climbing expeditions. "The film will also cover the changes that have taken place in the Everest Region during the past 10 years," news reports quoted MacGillivray as saying. This time, the team may not reach Everest summit. The team may reach only up to Everest Base Camp from Lukla and Khumbu Icefall.

The team has the same characters, who played their roles in the IMAX Everest Film. Jamling Tenzing Norgey Sherpa, son of the first Everest summitteer late Tenzing Norgey Sherpa, and the first Spanish woman climber Araceli Segavra will be the main characters in the film—Return to Everest. Jamling hoped that the second IMAX Everest film would be very fruitful for the promotion of Nepal as a tourist destination internationally. The first part of the film will include Sherpa culture, environment up to the base camp, changed mountaineering skills. Moreover, the team will also study of human physiology at high altitude.

Tourist arrivals up by 63% in February

The number of foreign tourists, who visited Nepal in the month of February 2007, increased by 62.6% as compared to the arrival figures of the corresponding month of last year.

A total of 25,656 tourists came to the Himalayan country in February this year, while the number of visitors of the same month of 2006 stood at 15,776, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). The growth, with not a single market declining, was outstanding not only from the Asian countries but also substantially from Europe and USA, the press release states.

The potential Indian market showed an overwhelming increase of 54.8% followed by remarkable upsurge from all the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, including Bangladesh by 60.5%.

Among the other Asian markets, arrivals from China shot up by 281.6%, South Korea by 88.8% and Japan by 69.5%. The East Asian markets also showed an upward trend. Data show that arrivals from Thailand increased by 110%, Malaysia by 8.4%, Singapore by 59.2% and Taiwan by 29.2%. With such an encouraging arrivals trend, the East Asian countries have become the major generating markets having about 28% share.

The notable growth in European market was contributed by increases in arrivals from France (68.6%), Germany (23.4%), United Kingdom (88.3%) as well as improvement in arrivals from Belgium (46.8%), Italy (26.1%), the Netherlands (40.4%), among others. Similarly in addition to the rise in Australian visitors (35.2%), the American visitors number swelled by 53.1%.

The significant growth in the number of tourists from South Korea, China and Bangladesh took place due to increased direct air connections. "With the vastly improved situation in the country, the rising confidence of international travel trade and consumers has paved the way for more travelers to visit Nepal," NTB says.

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