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Trekking thru Annapurna circuit restricted after blizzards

Following dozens of death by blizzards, authorities have restricted tourists to trek through some parts of the Annapurna circuit for time being.

According to the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), trekkers now cannot pass through the trekking route above upper Mustang.

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) is regulating the trekking activities in the area.

It has stopped collecting fees and giving approvals to trekkers to go beyond upper Mustang citing security reasons, according to West Regional President of TAAN, Ramchandra Sharma.

Source: THT

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TAAN to fix qualification of guides, porters

The Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN) is working to fix minimum qualification for guides and porters in its bid to enhance the quality of service provided to trekkers.

According to TAAN President Ramesh Dhamala, discussions are underway to fix minimum qualification for trekkers and porters. “We are planning to change the qualification of guides to SLC passed and porters to Grade 10. However, we are studying the practical aspects of this provision,” said Dhamala.

Not only that. TAAN and different unions of trekking workers have already signed an agreement to bar unlicensed trekking guides from leading groups from January 2015 onwards.

Kul Bahadur Gurung, second vice president of TAAN, said the association was holding discussions with trekking workers unions and trekking agencies regarding enforcement of minimum qualification criteria for trekking guides and porters. “It is better to have the qualification fixed as we can assure trekkers on the quality of service that we are providing them,” Gurung said, adding, “There, however, are some issues that need to be discussed and the practical aspects to be considered before taking decision on the issue.”

To ensure that trekking groups are not affected by the decision to bar unlicensed guides from leading groups, TAAN in coordination with Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) is providing 28-day training to 1,000 porters cum guide. 

“The availability of trained guide cum porter will help us get rid of the compulsion of sending two staff - one guide and one porter - with groups as guides do not carry bags and porters do not understand English,” added Gurung.

To apply for the training, interested guides and porters will have to fill a form with their experience letter and photocopy of their citizenship card. TAAN will select them and recommend to NATHM for the training.

TAAN TO CONTROL UNAUTHORIZED AGENCIES


In order to solve the problem of trekkers being cheated and guides facing various problems on trails, TAAN is forming a five-member taskforce to check the status of various trekking agencies. 

“We are soon forming a taskforce to check the operation status of trekking agencies,” Gurung said, adding, “We have seen many websites that are selling and operating trekking packages. The taskforce will request them to follow existing rules and regulations and register their agency first.” 

TAAN does not have the authority to take action against them, according to Gurung.

Though there are around 1,600 trekking agencies in operation, only about 1,000 of them are associated with TAAN

News Source: Republica

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Taan says government positive to ban on solo trekkers

The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (Taan) has resumed lobbying for a ban on solo or free independent trekkers due to safety concerns, and this time the government has taken kindly to its proposal.

Taan President Ramesh Dhamala said they planned to bar trekkers from setting off into the mountains without guides or porters by the beginning of 2015.

“We have requested the government to enforce the system, and it has agreed to our proposal in principle,” he said. The provision will ensure tourist safety and also stop agencies that have been operating illegally, he added. An estimated 40 percent of the total tourist arrivals to Nepal go walking in the Himalayan foothills for sightseeing.

Taan had proposed prohibiting trekking without guides or porters to the high-level committee formed to restructure the Nepal Tourism Board and manage the country’s tourism industry.

“We have been discussing the proposal of the private sector, and the government has taken it as a positive move,” said Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of the Industry Division of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

“The government believes that making guides mandatory for trekkers will increase employment and ensure the safety of foreign travellers.”

Burlakoti, however, said that it would take some time to enforce the system as various laws needed to be reviewed first. There are more than 10,000 professional tourist guides including porters in Nepal.

The apex body of the country’s trekking agencies had announced that solo trekkers would have to take along a guide from Sept 1, 2012 as per government orders. However, it was forced to backtrack after the Tourism Ministry said it had not issued any such directive.

The proposed system had drawn mixed reactions from trekkers then with some complaining that it was a restriction on their freedom and others welcoming it as it would make trekking safer.

Dhamala added that family members of missing trekkers had also been urging Taan to enforce the rule as soon as possible. “There has been increased crime on the trekking routes which has raised serious concern.”

A number of trekkers have gone missing in recent years. In June 2012, a 23-year-old Belgian hiker Debbie Maveau was found dead near Langtang National Park. She had gone on a six-day hike to Gosaikund. She was expected to return to Belgium on June 9.

Taan said that in 2010, Aubrey Caroline Sacco, a student at the University of Colorado, disappeared in the same area. In December 2008, Julian Wynne, a British tourist trekking solo in the Everest region, went missing. Similar incidents happened in the Everest region in 2011 and 2014.

In 2006, police found the body of Kristina Kovacevic, a German trekker who had been reported missing, in Solukhumbu.

Taan said that hiring a guide would increase the cost for solo travellers, but it would ensure their safety. Currently, only group trekkers are accompanied by guides, and only a few FITs (free independent trekkers) take along a guide or porters.

Source: eKantipur

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