As China’s Arctic ambition continues to grow, it’s not only expeditions to the polar regions that are starting to excite adventurous Chinese tourists. With the rise of Nepal’s Communist Prime Minister seeing a focus on Chinese tourism, travelers seeking a mountaineering adventure are turning to Nepal.
China is currently the second-largest market for Nepalese tourism, and young Chinese travelers are starting to seek out more of what the country has to offer. According to the Tourism Department of Nepal, Chinese summiteers of the country’s highest peaks has risen more than tenfold over the past four years.
The number of Chinese summiteers of Everest rose from 4 to 30 between 2014 and 2015
In 2014, Nepal saw only four Chinese nationals successfully summit any of its numerous mountain peaks. The Nepalese tourism industry as a whole was shaken by 2015’s devastating earthquake, with Chinese travel to the country dropping from 123,805 visitors the year before to approximately 64,000 in 2015. Despite this, many adventurous mountaineers were seemingly not discouraged. 2015 saw a rise to 30 successful summiteers of Chinese nationality, placing them 10th out of all foreign countries listed.
By 2016, many more Chinese nationals were daring to hike the mountains of Nepal, boosting China to 3rd on the list of successful summiteers, with 60, only behind the United States at 78, and the United Kingdom at 79. For those looking to summit the likes of Mt. Everest, the total cost for access, equipment and guides comes in at upwards of $20,000—a lucrative market for Nepalese tourism if they can harness the interest of China’s wealthier travelers.
By 2016, China was ranked the third biggest source market for Nepal’s hiking tourism industry
As of yet, there’s been no official release of the 2017 data, but experienced tour company leader Mani Barakoti of The Great Adventure Treks and Expedition says he’s seen Chinese outdoor tourism in Nepal continue to rise.
“I’ve been a climbing tour guide here since 1998, and since 2008 we’ve seen a huge boom in the number of young Chinese tourists. In the beginning, they’d often choose easier routes, but since 2014 we’ve seen many more looking to trek the Everest region.”
Nepal provides yet another example for the growing demand for adventure travel among Chinese travelers
It’s not just mountaineering that thrill-seeking Chinese travelers are choosing to try out in Nepal, with Barakoti explaining, “Chinese trekkers just love adventure. They love to do other activities like paragliding, bungee jumping, helicopter tours and white water rafting. We get the most tourists for those.”
Accounting for almost 8 percent of its GDP, China is now one of the most important sources of income for Nepal’s tourism industry. Due to be completed in 2021, Chinese company China CAMC Engineering was recently awarded the contract by Nepal’s cabinet to construct and develop a new international airport at Pokhara, the entry point to the Annapurna trekking and mountaineering circuit; the second most popular route after the Everest mountain region. CMAC had the lowest bid for the project, at $305 million, and was awarded the contract following a recommendation by the Nepalese Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation.
Nepal’s tourism industry is hoping to cash in on Chinese tourism by reorienting tours and other offerings to be more “China-friendly”
Prices to hike around the Everest and Annapurna regions of the Himalayas range anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 for a 12-day trek, with many Chinese tourists traveling in large groups and paying extra for the value of a Chinese-speaking guide. According to Barakoti, his own company, founded in 2006, has taken measures to cater for the growing number of Chinese tourists. “Most companies are now trying to hire more Chinese speaking guides and porters, and a lot of people are looking to take advantage of this new market—there’s a lot of competition.”
In order to appeal to the likes of wealthy Chinese adventurers heading to the Arctic Circle, Nepal’s mountainous regions are seeing the rise of super-luxury properties. According to Barakoti, this is just the beginning, “We want to offer really specialized hiking tours for the Chinese adventurer, and we need to attract tourists willing to pay for it.”