Around 20,000 people are expected to go jobless after Nepal temporarily stopped issuing on-arrival tourist visas to all countries and put an end to all mountaineering expeditions for this season, in efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a media report on Saturday.
Nepal has so far reported only one case of coronavirus and the infected person has already been treated.
Hundreds of climbers flock each year to Nepal, home to several of the world's highest mountains, including Mt. Everest, to scale the Himalayan peaks during the spring season that begins around March and ends in June.
The Nepal government on Thursday suspended on-arrival tourist visas to all countries, put an end to all spring mountaineering expeditions, including Everest ascents, and halted the issuance of labour permits to prevent the spread of COVID-19, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Around 20,000 people, including tour, trekking and mountain guides, are expected to lose their jobs after the government's move, it said.
According to the Tourism Ministry data, there are 16,248 trekking and mountaineering guides and 4,126 tour guides in the country.
As per the annual World Travel and Tourism Council research report, Nepal's tourism sector generated Rs 240.7 billion in revenue and supported more than 1.05 million jobs directly and indirectly in the country in 2018.
We have estimated that around 1 million people in the mountain belt who make their living through the spending of foreign trekkers and mountaineers will suffer, said Nabin Trital, senior vice president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.
The Covid-19 outbreak globally had led to cancellations in hotel and travel bookings since February in the country.
There has been a flurry of booking cancellations since mid-February, but Thursday's decision has shaken the economy, said Bhai Krishna Khadka, senior vice-president of the Tourist Guides Association of Nepal.
But we expect that this will be a temporary restriction. We are hopeful that the tourists will return, Khadka said.
The hardest-hit sector will be Everest, where an entire economy, consisting of climbing guides, porters, hotels and lodges subsists on spring mountaineering, it said.
COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 5,000 lives and infected more than 134,000 people globally.