Annapurna circuit welcomes record 22k foreign trekkersThe world-famous Annapurna circuit received more foreign trekkers than ever before in 2016, thanks to post-earthquake publicity.
The world-famous Annapurna circuit received more foreign trekkers than ever before in 2016, thanks to post-earthquake publicity.
According to Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the circuit received 22,108 foreign trekkers through Lamjung’s Beshishar route, up 38.42 percent compared to 2015 figure. In 2013, the circuit had received 21,207 trekkers, which had dropped to 13,615 in 2014.
In October last year, the peak tourist season, the circuit had received 5,651 foreign trekkers. The trekking trail of Annapurna had seen a sharp decline in trekkers’ number during the decade-long Maoist insurgency (1996-2006) when the figure had declined 29 percent.
The 2015 was the worse year as the number of trekkers had nosedived by 34 percent.
Babu Lal Tiruwa, chief of ACAP Manang, said the number of foreign trekkers to the circuit in 2016 was the highest since the project started to collect tourist data in 1996.
Last year, only the months of January and February had seen decline in the number of trekkers. “The remaining 10 months proved most productive,” he said.
According to ACAP officials, the circuit hosted more than 250 trekkers daily last year. Even during the off season, tourists inflow was not affected. Binod Gurung, president of Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, said all hotels were packed with visitors last year. “Hotels had not witnessed such an occupancy rate for the past seven years,” he said, adding the visitors even struggled to find hotel rooms.
Lal Prasad Gurung, chief of the ACAP central office in Pokhara, said post-earthquake publicity played a crucial role in attracting trekkers. “The publicity that the earthquake of 2015 did not affect the trekking trails was a key driver,” he said.
The audit report of Annapurna trekking submitted to the Tourism Ministry in July 2015 showed structural earthquake-related damage in the Annapurna region was very limited. The report had stated that the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary trails covered in the study were largely undamaged by landslides after the earthquakes.
However, there were some areas identified as having high-hazard levels. The assessment of trekking trails was divided into six sections: Birethanti to Tukuche, Tukuche to Muktinath, Bhulbhule to Chame, Chame to Thorong Phedi, Birethanti to Bamboo and Bamboo to Annapurna Base Camp. The trail was then declared safe and was put into commercial operation.
Nepal had been included in National Geographic Traveller magazines’ Ten Places That Deserve More Travellers, in which it had mentioned that the legendary Annapurna Circuit remained accessible.