NEPAL-EVEREST-TRAIL
A trekking path, lower right, is overshadowed by high-altitude peaks including Ama Dablam, top center, in a valley leading north into Nepal's Khumbu region, which is home to Mount Everest on April 18, 2015  Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images

The Best Way to Help Nepal Recover From the Quake? Go There on Vacation

May 08, 2015

“We are pleased to inform you that Nepal is now safe to visit,” reads an email from Adventure Mountain Explore Treks & Expedition (AME treks) sent out on Wednesday. “If you have already booked your holiday or you are planning to, we welcome you with an open heart.”

The message from the Kathmandu-based mountaineering and sightseeing organizers represents a larger plea from the small Himalayan nation, as it continues to pick itself up from the devastating April 25 earthquake that claimed over 7,000 lives thus far.

“Nepal is very safe to travel,” said AME executive director Tika Regmi. “Life is back to normal.”

The 7.9-magnitude quake laid waste to large swaths of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu (including several iconic heritage sites) and entire villages across the countryside have been flattened, but companies and officials alike insist visiting the country is now more important than ever.

The quake came during Nepal’s summer trekking season, and its aftermath and gradual recovery will undoubtedly affect this year’s peak autumn trekking expeditions beginning in September — bookings for which Regmi says are already starting to be canceled.

Despite Nepal's peerless natural beauty — boasting eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world — and ancient temples and palaces, this landlocked nation of 30 million only receives around 600,000 visitors a year, making tourism a key potential avenue for growth.

Ganga Sagar Pant, CEO of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), says there is no reason for Nepal’s tourism — currently contributing around 10% of GDP and jobs — to grind to a halt. “The world must go on,” he said. “The tourism products are still there — mountains, flora and fauna, jungles, trails.”

Pant says TAAN is planning “assessment” expeditions to popular trekking sites like the Mount Everest circuit, the Annapurna region (which includes the 10th highest mountain in the world) and the Langtang National Park in the weeks to come, so a more concrete picture of the earthquake’s impact can be formed.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Nepal’s government is also in the process of collecting data on loss of infrastructure and damage to heritage sites and popular trekking paths. “But there are many other areas which could be new tourism products and destinations, so our focus is on that as well,” says Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesperson for Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation. “Our priority is to bring more tourists and provide them quality, safety, hospitality and other services to their satisfaction,” he says, expressing a desire to re-establish Nepal as a “safe, unique and attractive tourist destination.”

All three men — Regmi, Pant and Sapkota — insist that Nepal remains safe and urge people to come visit. The benefits are especially positive if visitors reside in homestays and frequent independent restaurants and shops.

“People from around the world are willing to help in this situation,” says Pant. “One important and sustainable way to do that is to help tourism here flourish again.”

Witness the Aftermath of Nepal's Devastating Earthquake

A Nepali boy stands amidst earthquake damage in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A Nepalese boy stands amid earthquake damage in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, April 28, 2015, three days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake had hit the country.Adam Ferguson for TIME
A Nepali boy stands amidst earthquake damage in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A Nepali man carries recovered belongings through the street in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
People atop damaged buildings in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 26, 2015. The historic Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, was severely damaged in an earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Hindu Nepali women mourn the loss of four family members who were killed in the earthquake on April 25th, at the site of funeral pyres on the river Kathmandu on April. 28, 2015. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A crowd watches Indian forces excavating collapsed apartments looking for bodies and survivors of Saturdays Earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepali forces excavate the Dharahara tower in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 26, 2015. This as well as historic Durbar Square, both UNESCO world heritage sites, were severely damaged in an earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepali people flee buildings during an aftershock in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Indian and Nepali forces attempt to identify a body after it was recovered from a collapsed restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A Hindu Nepali man tends to a funeral pyre built for a person killed in the earthquake in Nepal, on the river in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepali forces excavate the Dharahara tower in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 26, 2015. This as well as historic Durbar Square, both UNESCO world heritage sites, were severely damaged in an earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepali forces clear fallen bamboo from ruins in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 26, 2015. The historic Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, was severely damaged in an earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepali children walk through the street in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Workers repair power lines in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Indian and Nepali forces excavate a body from collapsed apartments in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepalis retrieve belongings from earthquake damaged homes in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley on April 29, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Nepal_Earthquake_2015_03236.JPG
Nepal_Earthquake_2015_03113.JPG
A displaced Nepali family take shelter in a tent in a park in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A mother looks at her son who was injured in the April 25th earthquake, at the Nepal and India Trauma Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 29, 2015. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
Earthquake, Kathmandu, Nepal
A body recovered from a collapsed restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A Nepali man tends to a funeral pyre built for a person killed in the earthquake in Nepal, on the river in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 28, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A funeral pyre built for a person killed in the earthquake in Nepal, on the river in Kathmandu, Nepal on April. 27, 2015. Nepal had a severe earthquake on April 25th. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time
A Nepalese boy stands amid earthquake damage in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, April 28, 2015,
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Adam Ferguson for TIME
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