Murder Could Hurt Nepal's Tourism Efforts

10 September, 2015

Four months after a deadly earthquake, Nepal is struggling to revive mountain and trekking tourism. Now, however, the murder of an American volunteer could hurt those efforts.

Dahlia Yehia was a 27-year-old teacher from Austin, Texas. She was in Nepal to help victims of an earthquake in April. Authorities say she was living in a resort town when she was hit with a hammer, and her body thrown in a river.

It has been more than four months since two major earthquakes struck Nepal. The quakes killed more than 8,700 people. Property was vastly destroyed or damaged.

The murder is unlikely to help Nepal as it struggles to re-build its tourism industry. Foreigners and the money they spend in Nepal provide jobs for thousands of Nepalese. The country's Himalayan Mountains have long been a popular area for mountain climbers.

Ramesh Prasad Dhamala (RAH-mesh Pra-SAHD Tah-MAH-lah) works for Ecological Treks in Nepal. He spoke to VOA before the murder occurred, as he prepared to welcome his first group of hikers since the earthquake in April.

(ACT - RAMESH PRASAD DHAMALA)  "We are sending the six German people we know to the mountains. Similarly, other companies, they are also doing. So there are a few trekkers. They are already, you know, starting their trekking activity on the mountain."

The Germans are among a handful of foreigners who will climb Nepal's mountains this autumn. They have set aside concerns about the safety of hiking trails high in the Himalayas.

This is a huge step forward for Nepal. Before the earthquakes, more than 150,000 foreigners came each year to explore its mountains.

The first earthquake struck during the spring climbing season. Nineteen people died in an avalanche on Mount Everest. Rocks, ice and snow damaged paths used by hikers.

The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association is Ang Tshering (AHNG Shering). He says his group has worked hard to reopen the mountains for visitors.

(ACT – ANG TSHERING) "We are repairing the trails, bridges and the road heads. Some of the places we are putting the retention walls, where there are landslides."

An American-based engineering company was asked to study safety conditions. It found that trails around Mount Annapurna are safe for hikers.

That has raised hopes among nearly 200,000 sherpas, guides and others that next year will be better economically. Because the earthquake interfered with the spring climbing season, many Nepalese earned little or no money this year. They hope the famous mountains will draw visitors back to Nepal.

Pemba Gyalje (PEM-bah gill-AHL-jay) has climbed Mount Everest seven times. He is one of Nepal's most famous mountaineers. He says he is sure that the tall, snow-covered mountains will work their magic.

(ACT – PEMBA GYALJE) "The mountain attraction is very unique and very powerful. This is a very unique, natural power. It is very difficult to explain."

Fiona Marshall is with KE Adventure Travels, a company based in Britain. She says Adventure Travels will operate in Nepal this year after carefully studying the areas where it operates. She says her company is already planning trips to Nepal, although demand is not as strong as before the earthquakes.

For Nepal, the return of mountain tourism is important to its recovery efforts. The millions of dollars brought in by overseas visitors are a valuable source of foreign exchange.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Anjana Pasricha reported on this story for George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

tourism n. the activity of traveling for pleasure; the business of providing hotels, meals and other services for travelers

hikersn. individuals who walk long distances for pleasure or exercise

trailsn. paths or walkways

avalanchen. a large amount of snow, ice, dirt and rocks that slides down the side of a mountain

association – n. an organization or group

retentionadj. related to the ability to keep something or someone

attraction – n. something of interest

unique – adj. special or different from everything else

keenadj. very interested and excited in something