(Ram Bahadur Thapa/RSS)
Gandaki, Jan 2: The Annapurna region welcomed 191,558 tourists in 2023, marking the highest number of visitors in its tourism history.
According to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), in 2019, the area witnessed the second-highest influx of tourists with 181,000 visitors. The latest surge in tourist arrivals indicates a remarkable recovery from the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global tourism industry. The tourism industry, both in Nepal and globally, faced severe setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year remained historic for Annapurna region in terms of the arrival of tourists, said ACAP chief Dr Rabin Kadariya. The data indicates a rise in South Asian visitors, with 97,554 recorded in 2023 compared to 53,710 in 2019. Conversely, arrivals from other countries declined from 127,290 in 2019 to 94,004 in 2023.
It is said, the Annapurna region welcomed people from 173 countries: the highest number 96,187 from India followed by 8,526 from France, 7,641 from Germany, 7,249 from the United States of America, 7,174 from the UK and 6,323 from China.
It seems that tourism industry in the region has rebound after a significant fall during COVID-19. Amidst the pandemic, it recorded the arrivals of 16,105 tourists in 2021. However, this figure increased by more than eight folds to reach 129,733 in 2022.
However, Dr Kadariya expressed concerns about the diminishing charm of the region for European and American tourists. He attributed this to the expansion of roadway facilities, posing a threat to the Annapurna Circuit Trek. The recent developments in road infrastructure raise urgent calls to preserve the region’s natural beauty and charm.
The region has been listed as one of the 10 best tourist destinations in the world.
Annapurna circuit trekking route encompasses various destinations including Annapurna Base Camp, Mardi Himal, Ghodepani, Tilicho Lake in Manang, Thorong-La Pass, Upper Mustang and the Muktinath region. It welcomes thousands of tourists from home and abroad each year. However, the ACAP keeps records of foreign tourists exploring these destinations.
According to Dr Kadariya, it is challenging to accurately determine the number of domestic tourists but stated the arrivals soar significantly in the months of Asoj (September-October) and Kartik (October-November) and Chait (March-April) to Baisakh (April-May), particularly with improved road access to Mustang and Manang.
The ACAP spreads to 7601 square kilometers of area. The region gained more popularity in the world following its visit by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutters last year. At the time, the UN Secretary General said he was memorized by the natural beauty of Nepal and heritages of the Himalaya.
The American news agency CNN identified the Annapurna region as one of world’s 23 top destinations to visit in 2023.
Tourist guide Divas Gurung said the Annapurna region is enchanting for tourists due to its natural beauty, biodiversity, Himalayan way of life, culture, and many more.