Travel Advisories after the Nepal Earthquake

Introduction

An earthquake occured in Nepal on April 25, 2015.  This earthquake is also known as the Gorkha earthquake. The earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. Naut Kuster, the Dutch manager of Travelife, wrote below article about the travel advisory chaos during the months after the Nepal earthquake. I have to thanks Naut for allowing me to publish this eye-opening article. It was published in Dutch in the newspaper De Volkskrant in 2015.

In order to improve the transparency and accuracy of travel advisories, an independent international organisation has been suggested that would assess the situation in the respective countries in an objective manner and avoid a political or economic bias. I totally agree with that suggestion.

Nepal Travel Advice for  Western markets

Status as of August 1, 2015

Two foreigners holding a sign We are in Nepal

We are in Nepal

Contents

1. Overview

2. No negative travel advice

3. Negative travel advice for effected regions only

4. Advice against all but essential travel

Appendix

UNWTO ethical code of conduct for Travel Advisories

Woman holding sign I am in Nepal now

I am in Nepal now

 

Foreign Minister of Italy

Benedetto Della Vedova, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs

“Nepal is safe to visit after earthquake. There has been damage but it’s not like it’s unsafe to visit Nepal, and hotels are safe. Anyone can visit Nepal”.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs

1. Overview

It is observed that while the situation in Nepal in most regions is normalized there are still countries which maintain a generic negative travel advice. Switzerland and Japan never had a negative Travel Advice. USA, Finland and Italy recently changed their advice and only provide general precaution warnings. UK, Germany, The Netherlands, USA and New Zealand have recently changed the Travel Advisory status to a geo-specific advice. This also is in line with the UN World Tourism Organization’s code of conduct for Travel advisories. This is fair towards the destination and is more responsible towards the visitors who need specific information regarding risks. Many counties maintain a negative advice including France, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Poland. It is noticed that in countries where the advice has been changed, lobby activities took place recently by committed individuals, tour operators and media. It seems just a matter of lack of (public) attention why the travel advice in some countries remains the same as just after the Earthquake. It seems therefore relevant for companies and citizens of the above countries to approach their governments so they might adapt the travel advisory status. This report might be used for that purpose, referring also the UN-WTO related ethical code (see below).

Nepal travel advisory status, August 1th 2015

Travel advisories for Western countries

UN-WTO recommendation

Negative travel advice can have strong economic impact on destinations. A great ethical responsibility is therefore held by the tourism source areas. For Nepal this is specifically relevant for the Western countries.

The UN-WTO has repeatedly put these matters on its agenda and called for governments and media to provide proportional and geo-specific information. In 2009 a policy note was produced on this “Recommendations on the Use of Georeferences, Date and Time in Travel Advice and Event Information”. Following some of the key elements:

Governments have the right – and the duty – especially in a crisis, to inform their nationals of the difficult circumstances, or even the dangers they may encounter during their travels abroad; it is their responsibility however to issue such information without prejudicing in an unjustified or exaggerated manner the tourism industry of the host countries and the interests of their own operators; the contents of travel advisories should therefore be discussed beforehand with the authorities of the host countries and the professionals concerned; recommendations formulated should be strictly proportionate to the gravity of the situations encountered and confined to the geographical areas where the insecurity has arisen; such advisories should be qualified or cancelled as soon as a return to normality permits… (paragraph 5)

The press, and particularly the specialized travel press and the other media, including modern means of electronic communication, should issue honest and balanced information on events and situations that could influence the flow of tourists; they should also provide accurate and reliable information to the consumers of tourism services; the new communication and electronic commerce technologies should also be developed and used for this purpose… (paragraph 6)

Tourism professionals have an obligation to provide tourists with objective and honest information on their places of destination and on the conditions of travel, hospitality and stays…” (paragraph 1)

In the case of Nepal, the governments of France, Spain, Poland, Sweden and Denmark are acting in an irresponsible manner and not according to basic ethical principles. There seems no justified reason to maintain the present negative advice when major tourism source countries like Germany, the USA and the UK have adapted their advice based on above principles.

Key specific information from the Travel Advisories

In Kathmandu, conditions are returning to normal. Cleanup efforts have cleared most of the rubble from collapsed structures and walls, and demolition efforts continue to address unstable buildings. In the worst-affected areas outside of Kathmandu, damage is more widespread and severe [USA].

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the following districts of Nepal: Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang, Manang, Lamjung Gorkha (including Manaslu trekking region), Dhading, Rasuwa (including Langtang), Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Solukhumbu (incl. Everest Base Camp and trekking routes in the Everest region) and Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung [UK + Germany].

Travel on the main highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara, which passes through Nuwakot, Gorkha and Dhading districts, is exempted from the FCO’s advice against all but essential travel [UK].

During the monsoon season (May to September) there must be reckoned with some very heavy rains. They can cause floods, landslides, mud and debris flows and infrastructure damage. These risks have increased with the earthquake of 25 April 2015 and the aftershocks from May 12, 2015 [Finland].

2. No negative travel advice

Switzerland

Valid on: 29/07/2015 Published: 15/05/2015 On April 25, 2015 strong earthquake in Nepal has caused massive damage and caused thousands of fatalities and injuries. Among other things, it came on May 12, 2015 a strong aftershock. The most affected regions Langtang (Rasuwa) and Manasalu are (Gorkha). The rehabilitation of the infrastructure will take a long time to complete. During the monsoon season (May to September) must be reckoned with some very heavy rains. They can cause floods, landslides, mud and debris flows and infrastructure damage. These risks have increased with the earthquake of 25 April 2015 and the aftershocks from the May 12, 2015 in addition. Inform yourself about travel to Nepal through your travel agent or the local tour guide on the feasibility of travel Information about the flight connections grant airlines.

Italy

Issued on 24.07.2015.  Still valid. Following the earthquake of 25 April, which caused more than 8,000 victims and caused extensive damage in some areas of Kathmandu, including the historic sites of Patan and Bhaktapur, continue to experience aftershocks, some of significant magnitude, like last May 12. It should be noted therefore that the restoration of the main infrastructure in areas particularly damaged will take several years and have not ruled out further collapses, including in the main streets of Kathmandu, caused by instability of the buildings damaged by the frequency of the tremors.

Finland

Travel News, 08/07/2015 Nepal: Kathmandu situation returning to normal despite the aftershocks. Outside Kathmandu, however, tourists are advised to exercise particular caution and follow the instructions of local authorities. During the monsoon season (June-September) the risk of landslides and floods is high, especially in rural areas. Embassy of Finland in Kathmandu (Valid until further notice)

United States

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nepal and recommends that they exercise caution there following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25. The Department of State terminated the authorized departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and dependents on June 30, 2015. This replaces the Travel Warning dated May 1, 2015. While their frequency and severity have diminished, the possibility of earthquakes or aftershocks continues. The overall effect of the initial earthquake and its aftershocks varied greatly across the country. Areas close to the epicenters suffered significant damage, while other areas in the country were nearly unaffected. In Kathmandu, conditions are returning to normal. Cleanup efforts have cleared most of the rubble from collapsed structures and walls, and demolition efforts continue to address unstable buildings. In the worst-affected areas outside of Kathmandu, damage is more widespread and severe. Recovery efforts in these areas are ongoing, and access to basic resources, such as food, water, fuel and communications, could be limited. The April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks destabilized steep, mountainous areas, and severe landslides have occurred in some affected areas. With the arrival of monsoon rains, which usually begin in June and last until September, there may be a higher occurrence of landslides than in years past. We encourage travelers to consult carefully with their travel and trekking agencies for current, location-specific information.

Japan

Map of Japan Travel Advisory for Nepal

● very western (bhajan County, Vajra County, Achamu County), Midwest (bucket County, Suruketto County, Jumla County, Dunn County, Bardia County, Rolpa District, Rukum District, Sariyan County, JAJAH Le cot County, Karikotto County, direct county, Pyutan County) and Central (rose-gun, each India border near and counties Kyonan side of Rautahato County) : “. Please consider the pros and cons of travel” (continued)

● Eastern (Bojipuru County, Udayapuru County, Cottin County , Sunsari County, Moran County) : “. Please take normal care” (reduction)

● very western (Daruchura County, Baidadi County, Kailali County, Daderudo~ura County, Kang Chang pool County, Doti County), Midwest (Dolpa County), West (Shanja County, Gorkha District, Parbat County, Palpa County, Tanafun County, Ramujun County, Kaski District, Nawalparasi District, Gurumi County, Arugakachi County, Baglung County, Myagudi County, Rupandehi County, Kapirubasuto~u County), Central (Kathmandu County ( Capital), Bhaktapur County, Lalitpur County, membrane one pool County, Nuwakotto County, Shin du Pal choke County, mosquito pre-Paran choke County, Dadin County, Draka County, Ramechappu County, Shinzuri County, Chitwan District, pulser County, Sarurahi County, Mahattari county, Danusha County, and rose County and the region excluding India border-counties Kyonan side of Rautahato County) and eastern (Sankuwasaba County, Taplejung County, Japa County, Dhankuta County, Ilam County, Sorukunbu County Sol district, Terato~umu County, Pachitaru County, Okaru Dunga County, Saptari District, singled out County) (capital including Kathmandu, Pokhara, the Chitwan) : “. Please take normal care.” (continued)

 

3. Negative travel advice for specific regions only

Map of Netherlands Travel Advisory

The Netherlands

Last updated on: 15-07-2015 | yet still valid on: 29-07-2015 Tourist travel to southern Nepal again possible. Travel only if it is necessary to the high mountains of northern Nepal. On April 25, 2015 took place in Nepal a severe earthquake. The epicenter of the quake was in the village Gorkha between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Another powerful earthquake followed by several strong aftershocks, took place on May 12, 2015. There remains a risk of aftershocks life and an increased risk of further landslides and avalanches. The risk of landslides during the monsoon is higher than usual. This is due to the damage from the recent earthquakes.

Belgium

All non-essential travel are not recommended for the following districts in Nepal, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang, Manang, Lamjung, Gorkha, Dhading, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchowk District, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Solukhumbu, Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung. In the other districts of Nepal can be traveled, if vigilance is exercised. On April 25, 2015 Nepal was indeed hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale with epicenter 80 km east of Pokhara in central Nepal. The earthquake has made more than 8,500 fatalities. Aftershocks, some reaching a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale, find place since then and may still occur. The earthquake and aftershocks have caused landslides and avalanches. In the mentioned districts is collateral damage by new aftershocks and the risk of landslides, flooding and damage can not be ruled out.

Germany

(Valid Last modified: 7/17/2015)

Current Notices

Nepal has been repeatedly rocked by violent aftershocks partly from April 25, 2015 since the earthquake of magnitude 7.8. On 12 May, another severe aftershock measuring 7.4 occurred.

Of unnecessary travel to the areas affected by the earthquake most difficult districts will continue discouraged: Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang, Manang, Lamjung Gorkha (including Manaslu trekking region.), Dhading, Rasuwa (including Langtang.), Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Solukhumbu (incl. Everest Base Camp and trekking routes in the Everest region) and Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung.

Access to the directly affected by the quake areas Langtang, Manaslu and the Everest region is not at all or only with great difficulty possible. Even in not directly affected by the earthquakes areas, such as, among others, the Annapurna region, is expected to continue to landslides.

Norway

Last updated: 11/07/2015

The situation in Nepal is about to normalize, but the danger of landslides / flooding in the quake-hit areas will persist out the monsoon season, ie the first part of September. Foreign Affairs discourages until further travel and stay that are not necessary in the earthquake affected areas.

Further information on which areas / districts involved and the security situation generally in Nepal are on the embassy’s website www.norway.org.np

United Kingdom

Still current at: 29 July 2015

Updated: 28 July 2015

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the following districts of Nepal: Humla; Mugu; Dolpa; Mustang; Manang; Lamjung Gorkha (including the Manaslu trekking region); Dhading; Rasuwa (which includes the Langtang Valley trekking region); Nuwakot; Sindhupalchok; Kavrepalanchok; Dolakha; Ramechhap; Okhaldhunga; Solukhumbu (including Everest base camp and the Everest regional trekking routes); Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung.

Travel on the main highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara, which passes through Nuwakot, Gorkha and Dhading districts, is exempted from the FCO’s advice against all but essential travel.

Major earthquakes on 25 April (epicentre Gorkha district) and 12 May (epicentre Sinhupalchok district) caused extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure. Main roads across Nepal are open, but road conditions are poor.

New Zealand

There is high risk to your safety in the districts of Gorkha, Kavrepalanchok, Dhading, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindupalchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldunga and Makwanpur. The Government of Nepal has designated these districts as earthquake-affected. We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to these districts due to earthquake damage, ongoing relief and recovery efforts and the risk of landslides/avalanches.

Some Risk

There is some risk to your safety elsewhere in Nepal due to the potential for political rallies and protests to become volatile and we advise caution.

There is the possibility of further aftershocks. Aftershocks increase the risk of building collapses as well as avalanches and landslides, particularly in the areas to which we advise against tourist and non-essential travel.

The earthquakes caused damage to some buildings and historical sites in Kathmandu and infrastructure elsewhere. We advise against entering buildings that have been red-stickered (declared as unsafe) by the Government of Nepal.

Relief and recovery efforts are ongoing in some parts of Nepal. While most accommodation and tourist infrastructure has been assessed as safe and is now operating normally, there may be some disruption or damage to tourist facilities and mountain trails in certain areas. You should seek local advice on conditions in the areas you intend travelling to from the tourist police or the Nepal Tourism Board. New Zealanders in Nepal should follow any advice and instructions issued by the local authorities.

Australia

Australia Travel Advisory for Nepal

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in most areas of Nepal. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the mountainous districts along Nepal’s northern border. These districts were severely affected by earthquakes in April and May 2015 and subsequent aftershocks (see map). However, the main highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara, which passes through Nuwakot, Gorkha and Dhading districts, is safer. We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution along this road. See Local travel for further details.

The earthquake caused extensive damage to buildings, including in the capital, Kathmandu, and avalanches in the Solukhumbu (Everest) and Langtang regions.

Nepal is in a highly active earthquake region and earthquakes and tremors are common. In the event of a major earthquake, there is likely to be loss of life, widespread damage and severe disruptions to essential services.Australians should avoid travelling to the Langtang trekking region which was devastated by avalanches and landslides and remains extremely  dangerous. The Manaslu and Everest trekking regions also remain dangerous.

Canada

Last updated: July 22, 2015 15:51 ET Still valid: July 30, 2015 10:42 ET

Nepal – Exercise a high degree of caution

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Nepal. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the fragile and volatile political and security situation.

Regional Advisory

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against non-essential travel to areas listed below which are still at risk or remain affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on April 25, 2015 and subsequent aftershocks:

Gorkha, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang, Manang, Lamjung Gorkha (including the Manaslu trekking region, Dhading, Rasuwa (which includes the Langtang Valley trekking region) Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Makwanpur, Solukhumbu (including Everest Base Camp and the Everest regional trekking routes), Sankhuwasabha, and Taplejung.

4. Advice against all but essential travel

Austria

map of Austria Travel Advisory for Nepal earthquake

Austria Travel Advisory for Nepal

Valid 29.07.2015 (Last updated: 07.05.2015)

On April 25, in Nepal, a major earthquake measuring 7.9 with epicenter about 80 km north-west of Kathmandu occurred in the Himalayan region. He was followed by several since then and partly strong aftershocks. To date, several thousand people were killed. Buildings and infrastructure in the capital and other regions have been severely damaged, roads are blocked by landslides.

It is advised to avoid danger of collapsing buildings and to move only as little as possible in the city of Kathmandu. It can lead to bottlenecks in the supply of drinking water. The Nepalese government has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas.

Non-essential travel to Nepal is not recommended until a normalization of the situation.

Advice for trekking tours: With regard to the earthquake of 04.25.2015 is not yet determined to what extent the damage has affected individual trekking routes. So the Langtang Valley and the Everest region are from the quake severely been affected, during the Annapurna trek remained relatively spared. Would you please inquire before travel at your travel agency or local authorities on the current situation in the target area.

France

Last updated on: June 2, 2015 – Information always valid on: July 29, 2015

A very strong earthquake (magnitude 7.9), followed by several aftershocks, hit Nepal Saturday, April 25, 2015. Another powerful earthquake (7.3 magnitude), followed by several strong aftershocks, hit Nepal on Tuesday May 12, 2015.

Until further notice, it is not recommended unless you have a reason to visit Nepal.

It is recommended to French nationals who would be there to reassure their relatives in France, to follow the instructions of local authorities and to exercise the utmost vigilance when traveling in the historic districts of Kathmandu and surrounding cities. Indeed, some buildings are at risk of collapse.

Beyond replicas and new earthquakes that can be expected in the region, damaged watersheds related risks remain high and are expected to increase with the rains of the monsoon from June to September, the equivalent of several meters of water will befall the mountains and bleed, causing new landslides and rockfalls. These risks are significantly increased in the Himalayas by the steepness of the slopes. According to the feedback from the scientific community, in the months and years following an earthquake in mountainous areas, many people are victims, primarily because of landslides, but also the failure of natural dams which cause heavy flooding.

Spain

Updated 6/22/2015 (The recommendation is valid as of today)

Unadviced the journey under any circumstances.

After a new earthquake measuring 7.3 in the country on May 12, the validity of these travel recommendations remembered. Under the circumstances, it is essential that travelers present in Nepal pay particular attention to those recommendations. For those who want to leave the country, it is reported that international flights are practically standard. In case of further aftershocks, it is advisable to exercise extreme self-protection measures usual in such incidents. Also, as far as possible, it is recommended that travelers from contacting their families to tell them they are safe.

If nevertheless insists on traveling to Nepal and want to climb, it is recommended that you contact first with the Spanish Federation of Mountain, as some agencies in Nepal may not be prepared or have qualified personnel to organize climbs. Moreover, in recent years there have been several deaths of Spanish mountaineers scaling the main peaks of the country. It must always be remembered that this is a high-risk sport and that precautions should be taken, always go in a group and with an experienced guide.

Denmark

Last updated: 18/06/2015 Valid: 29/07/2015

Travel Guide for Nepal was last updated June 18, 2015 with an update regarding situation after the earthquake in April and May. Foreign Ministry advises against continuing non-essential journeys. The devastating earthquake in Nepal on 25 April and 12 May 2015 casualties. The country has been hit hard by the devastating earthquake. All sectors of society are affected by the situation, the infrastructure of the country is fragile and you need to be aware that there might be a shortage and large price increases for water, food and fuel, as well as mobile and internet coverage likely to be concerned. There is a risk of spreading diseases due to lack of clean drinking water, especially in the areas that have been hit by landslides after the quake. The Nepalese health care system is under very great stress after the earthquake, and it can be difficult to get the medical treatment of ordinary and minor injuries. There are still many smaller aftershocks, the danger of landslides and avalanches, and many destroyed villages without supplies in several trekking areas. Tourist Travelers advised not to venture out into the affected areas. There may also be disturbances, road blockades and violent demonstrations. Travelers to Nepal urged to exercise caution and to keep abreast of developments in the security situation.

Sweden

Nepal – Dissuasion

On the occasion of the natural disaster in Nepal advises the Foreign Ministry Until Further non-essential travel to the country.

Initial Decisions on dissuasion was 26 April 2015. Dissuasion until Further Notice.

UD can advise against non-essential travel, which means tourist and missions; of all trips, which also includes business travel, and all other trips. There are also situations where the Foreign Ministry not only advises against travel but also urges Swedes to leave the country. It is only in situations where there is imminent danger due to strife or other serious threats.

Consequences when the Foreign Ministry advises against travel:

When the Foreign Ministry advises against travel should be seen as a signal of a serious security situation, and that one should carefully think over their decision to travel. Normally, not a travel insurance for the Foreign Ministry advises against trips and may require supplementary policies in order to have protection if they decide to travel, despite advice against UD. It is important to check what is included in a travel insurance policy and the conditions applicable for the journey you booked.

Poland

Due to the earthquake that hit Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to the country covered by the natural disaster.

A strong earthquake occurred at 11.45 local time (08.00 Polish time) on 25 April. The epicenter was located approx. 81 km west of the capital Kathmandu. Aftershocks occurred around 13.00 local time (approx. 09.15 Polish time) on 26 April.

Map of Poland travel advisory

Poland travel advisory for Nepal

Map of Poland Travel Advisory

Poland Travel Advisory

Naut Kusters

Naut Kusters is manager of Travelife. The Travelife Sustainability System promotes sustainable practices within the travel and tourism industry. He is also consultant of CBI, the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries. He is also Director of ECEAT, the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism.

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