KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Foreign mountaineers who have climbed Mount Everest and another peak will get free Nepali visas for two years, part of a scheme to boost tourism in the Himalayan nation, a senior government official said.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) Everest summit since it was first climbed by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. Some 700 of these foreigners are said to be still alive.
“We will waive the visa fees for them to visit Nepal in 2010 and 2011 part of the Nepal Tourism Year plan,” Ranjan Aryal, the most senior bureaucrat in the tourism ministry told Reuters this week.
Himalayan Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has designated 2011 as the year to boost tourism. It plans to receive one million visitors next year, up from nearly half a million now.
Tourism accounts for 4 percent of the gross domestic product but travel officials say political unrest, frequent general strikes and shutdowns of transportation and roads had hit the industry.
Officials said nearly 200 foreigners who have climbed Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh highest at 8,167 meters (26,794 feet), would also get free visa this year and in 2011 as Nepal marks the 50th anniversary this week of the first ascent of Dhaulagiri by a Swiss-Austrian expedition.
Climbers will also get a 50 percent discount in climbing fees for Dhaulagiri for the rest of 2010 and all of next year as part of the celebrations, another official said.
Each foreign climber has to pay $5,000 to the government as royalty for climbing Dhaulagiri.
Editing by Miral Fahmy