Nepal to resume flights in boost for virus-hit tourism sector

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 21 2020 05:48 PM

Agence France-Presse reporter Ammu Kannampilly (2R), and Nepalese guide Pasang Sherpa (R) stand on a ridge over a valley leading north into the Khumbu region as they try to get a clear view of Mt. Everest on April 18, 2015. Roberto Schmidt, AFP

KATHMANDU - Nepal said Tuesday it would resume international commercial flights in mid-August, in a boost for its coronavirus-hit tourism sector.

The Himalayan nation shut its airports in late March to combat the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 17,844 people and claimed 40 lives in the country.

The shutdown hit just before the peak of the tourism season, when hundreds of mountaineers and trekkers visit Nepal, costing the industry -- a key part of the economy -- millions of dollars.

The decision to restart commercial domestic and international flights from August 17 was taken in a cabinet meeting Monday, Nepal's Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Yogesh Bhattarai said.

"The ministry is working on safety protocols for airport management, flight operators and passengers for the purpose," he told AFP.

All arriving and departing international passengers would need to have a certificate saying they are not carrying the virus.

Bhattarai said arriving travelers would also have to stay in quarantine, without specifying the duration.

About one-third of the 1.2 million visitors to Nepal last year arrived during the autumn season, according to government figures.

"It is... positive news and we have been receiving questions from clients," Nabin Trital of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal told AFP.

"We are discussing... protocols to ensure (the) safety of those who visit."