TED Case Studies

Everest Tourism

     CASE NUMBER:        252
     CASE NAME:          Everest Tourism


1.  The Issue

Situated between China and India lies the small land-locked country
of Nepal.  Slightly larger than the state of Arkansas, Nepal
contains eight of the world's ten highest mountain peaks making it
a popular destination for adventurous tourists.  Nepal is among the
poorest and least developed countries in the world.  The country's
population reached more than 21 million in 1994 yet the per capita
income is one of the world's lowest at $160 a year.  Agriculture
is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for over
ninety percent of the population.  Nepal is also a producer of
cannabis for both the domestic and international markets as well as
the transit point for heroin into the West.  With the growing
number of tourists, however, the Nepalese Government is trying to
exploit this resource as well.  One Nepalese ecologist says "There
are now three religions in Nepal -- Hinduism, Buddhism, and
tourism."  The influx of tourists has had dramatic effects on the
environment and on the local communities who come into contact with
the tourists.  It is no longer uncommon to find discarded rubbish
along the trekking trails.  Just as common is the soil erosion
during the monsoons as a result of severe deforestation, also
caused by tourism.  "Tourism is not only the goose that lays golden
eggs...it also fouls its own nest," says a Nepalese scientist.

2.   Description

The Nepalese portion of the Himalayas was "long remote from the
main pathways of international tourism."  The first Americans and
Europeans did not enter the region until 1950.  Up until 1964 only
mountaineering expeditions were permitted to visit the area.  In
1971, scarcely one thousand visitors came to visit.  "A decade
later five times that number visited, and by the end of the 1980s
tourists numbered more than 8,000 annually."  In 1993, the figure
"was closer to 300,000."  The Nepalese Government hopes to attract
a million people within the next ten years.  More than ninety
percent of these tourists are trekkers, coming mostly from the
United States and Western Europe, but also from Australia, New
Zealand, and Japan.

With the steady stream of visitors, at least $60 million in foreign
currency has been generated each year.  One person who is fearful
of what this may do to the local cultures and to the environment is
Sir Edmund Hillary, now 75.  Hillary believes that explorers have
an obligation to protect the very things which they come to marvel. 
He was a driving force behind the creation of the Sagarmatha
National Park and has established a trust which builds schools,
hospitals, clinics, bridges and water systems for the Sherpas,
whose culture is threatened the most.

Most tourists come to Nepal to trek through the mountains. 
Trekking may be arranged by a service and done in a group or on
one's own.  Group treks are typically prearranged and paid for
abroad or in the capital city of Kathmandu.  The other alternative
is to trek individually without the services of a trekking company. 
Individuals instead rely on the villages along the way for food and

About one-half of the trekkers who come to Nepal, come with
commercial groups.  These treks generally last between twenty-two
and twenty-five days.  A trek for twelve clients will contain a
support staff of approximately fifty members.  Because these
groups pay to make arrangements, little money goes to the local
communities.  The World Wildlife Fund estimates that "only 20 cents
of every $3 spent by an average trekker each day reaches village
economies.  The rest goes for goods imported from outside, notably
the West."  Individual trekkers, however, rely upon local guides
and families.  This means that more money is dispersed to the local

Regardless of how one travels, the environment and local
communities are affected.  Mountain trekking is part of a new type
of tourism called "adventure tourism."  Adventure tourism attracts
people who desire to see exotic and unknown places, primarily in
the developing world.  Adventure tourists, the name given to
tourists who seek this type of tourism, are searching for
"authenticity."  This means that the mountain treks are slow
journeys which pass through the landscape, "allowing time to
explore both nature and village life."  The core problem is that
the environment and communities begin to change as a result of
their newfound popularity.  The local cultures become influenced by
the presence of the trekkers and become modernized in their own
way.  Hence, they are no longer considered "authentic" and new
"ever more remote locations" must be found.  The idea behind
"adventure tourism" is that the more remote a location is, the more
it is desirable.  This means that unless precautions are taken,
degradation will inevitably occur.

Perhaps the most visible impact of trekkers on the Himalaya is the
growing amount of rubbish left behind.  Galen Rowell wrote of the
     The solitary splendor is dazzling - until I glance down
     at my feet.  There, frozen into the ice cap of Tharpu
     Chuli, lies a miniature garbage dump; discarded candy
     wrappers, film cartons, plastic bags, wads of tissue, and
     half-empty food cans, all of it left by foreign climbing
     groups.  It is a familiar and sickening sight to old
     Himalaya hands - the growing pollution of a priceless

It is estimated that over the past forty years, eighteen tons of
garbage, "from tin cans and beer bottles to oxygen tanks...(this
does not include such items as abandoned helicopters)" have been
dumped on Mount Everest alone.  (The helicopters are a new form of
tourism, called Sky Treks, for those who do not desire to hike up
the mountains.  Tourists instead ride helicopters to the top of the
mountains, take their pictures, and then return to the bottom
again.)  Other estimates place the accumulated rubbish at fifty
tones which will cost approximately $500,000 to clean up.

A second, and perhaps greater problem than all of the rubbish, is 
deforestation.  Many visitors come to Nepal expecting to see
massive forests along the slopes of the Khumba.  They do not come
expecting to find Western amenities.  Often the reverse is true. 
Western amenities assault the visitors in the teahouses and guest
lodges they find along the trails while the forests are all but

Over the years, the influx of tourists has encouraged changes in
the use of forests for fuel wood and construction materials.  The
forests have typically been used by the Nepali for fuel wood. 
However, the consumption rates between Nepalis and tourists greatly
differs and this is where the problem lies.  The demand for
fuelwood from tourists has always been a concern for the park
planners, administrators, and managers.  They consider "fuel-wood
use by mountaineering and trekking groups to be one of the main
environmental threats" to the parks.

"It has been estimated that four times as much fuel wood is needed
to cook a meal for a Western tourist than for a Nepali due largely
to differences in diet."  Add to that the fuel wood needed for
the daily hot showers and for the bonfires to keep them warm and
"the impact on the forests is devastating."  One trekker alone
consumes five to ten times more fuel-wood than one Nepali.  In
addition to the trekkers who are consuming gross amounts of fuel
wood, there are also the estimated "150,000 guides, porters, cooks,
and other support staff" who are traveling with the trekkers and
who need fuel wood as well.

Massive amounts of fuel wood are needed by the teahouses and guest
lodges as well.  More and more people are staying in the lodges and
the number of lodges has quadrupled since 1976.  The lodges and
teahouses may use "up to four times as much fuel wood a day" as
does a local's household."  Others have estimated the amount of
fuel wood used by one trekker per day to be more firewood than the
average Nepali uses in an entire week.

By 1979, the park authorities of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National
Park were beginning to see how extensive the deforestation, as a
result of tourism, was becoming.  As a result, they banned the use
of wood for cooking and bonfires.  All expedition and trekking
groups now must use kerosene stoves to cook.  However, there have
been no restrictions on the fuel-wood used by loges and teahouses. 
This must surely change if the country wants to preserve the
forests it still has remaining.

In the Annapurna Conservation Area, a program was created to link
conservation and development benefits, through tourism and
involving the local people.  The program helped the local lodge
owners see the benefits of halting deforestation.  While the trees
did provided needed fuel wood, their elimination would destroy the
beauty that many of the visitors came to see.  The program
"organized lodge owners and all agreed to honor a requirement that
trekking expeditions had to bring in their own kerosene."

3.   Related Cases

     HIMALAY case
     FRANCE case
     JUMBO case

     Keyword Clusters    
     (1): Forum                    = NEPAL
     (2): Bio-geography            = POLAR
     (3): Environmental Problem    = DEFORestation

4.   Draft Author:  Deborah Meisegeier


As a result of the burgeoning influx of tourists, the Nepalese
Government began to establish wildlife reserves, national parks,
conservation areas, and hunting reserves in 1976.  The first three
of these protected areas are recognized by the International Union
for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) now the
World Conservation Union.

One of the most famous conservation areas is the Annapurna
Conservation Area Project (ACAP) created in 1986.  ACAP "was
designed to minimize the negative impact from tourism and promote
conservation and the socioeconomic development of the region." 
ACAP is unique in that it calls for the participation and
management by the local people.

The project is based on the belief that properly managed tourism
can bring benefits both to the land and to the people.  "Tourists
are regarded as partners in fulfilling the goals of biodiversity
conservation, cultural revitalisation and sustainable economic
development."  ACAP managers and developers believe that mountain
trekking is a form of education which can be used to benefit the
Annapurna region.  In addition, the trekkers provide much needed
revenue that can be used for further conservation and development

5.   Discourse and Status:  AGREEment and INPROGress

6.   Forum and Scope: NEPAL ansd UNILATeral

7.   Number of Parties Affected: 1

8.   Legal Standing:  LAW


Most tourists come to Nepal either during the "cool, clear days of
October and November or during the secondary peak season that
extends from March through early May."

9.   Geography:

          a.  Continental Domain:  ASIA
          b.  Geographic Site:     South Asia [SASIA]
          c.  Geographic Impact:   NEPAL

10.  Sub-national Factors:  No

11.  Type of Habitat:  TEMPERATE


In an effort to promote conservation efforts, the Government of
Nepal passed the 1973 National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. 
It provided for the creation of the Department of National Parks
and Wildlife Conservation and gave the department the power to
create and manage four types of protected areas.  

By 1992, seven national parks, four wildlife reserves, one hunting
reserve, and one conservation area had been created.  Approximately
ten percent of Nepalese land is under some type of protection. 
Conservation has been a high priority of the government especially
due to the burgeoning environmental problems.

"Despite the relatively rapid development in conservation
activities, governmental support, and the legal protection granted
to many natural areas in the country, there is human encroachment
and many management problems in all of Nepal's protected areas." 
For example, expedition companies are required to clean up after
themselves, but it has been difficult to get the companies to

12.  Type of Measure:  REGSTD

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

14.  Relation of Measure to Impact 

          a.  Directly Related:    YES TOURism
          b.  Indirectly Related:  NO
          c.  Not Related:         NO
          d.  Process:             YES DEFORestation

15.  Product Type:  TOURISM

16.  Economic Data

Industry output was $60 million may be as high as 75% concentration
in some areas.  "Tourism provides the single largest source of
foreign exchange for the country's development plans and the
largest source of employment besides agriculture for Nepali
nationals."  Tourism is also the major source of employment for
many residents.  Employment from tourism is seasonal as a result of
the weather.  Most people employed by the tourism industry work
only four or five months a year.  It also varies from community to
community depending on the popularity and location of the village. 
For most family members, the income is earned through trekking as
guides, leaders, cooks, porters, and kitchen crews.  During the
expeditions the Nepali's hired to assist trekkers are fed, lodged,
and provided with equipment so they return home with all of their
earnings.  Employment in trekking has been predominate for men but
the number of women earning income from trekking is on the rise.

There has also been an increase in the employment and income
generated from the establishment of tea houses along the trekking
route.  An increasing number of tourists "carry light day packs and
eat and sleep in the lodges for just a few dollars a day."

17.  Degree of Competitive Impact:  MEDIUM

A frequent complaint among the tourists is the lack of sanitary
facilities.  Sagarmatha National Park, the park which encompasses
Mt. Everest, is getting a bad reputation as a result of all the
trash.  It is ironic that it is the tourists who are causing these
problems, yet they believe that it is up to the park authorities to
alleviate them.

18.  Industry Sector:  Tourism (TOUR)

19.  Exporter and Importer:  GERMANY and NEPAL


20.  Environmental Problem Type:  DEFORestation

Bio-diversity is being caused both by deforestation and by
pollution, which are also environmental problems.

21.  Species Information:  Many

22.  Impact and Effect: HIGH and REGULatory

23.  Urgency and Lifetime:  HIGH and 100s of years

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that if present rates of
deforestation continue, Nepal's forests will be gone by the year
2000.  This is troublesome not only because of the soil erosion and
habitat loss which result, but also because 86 percent of Nepal's
energy comes from its forests.

24.  Substitute:  Conservation [CONSV]


25.  Culture:  YES

The influx of tourists have had a significant effect on the local
communities, especially the Sherpas (a Nepali ethnic group) who
live around the trekking routes.  The culture of the Sherpas has
been changed as well as the structure of the local economies.

When the first trekkers came to Nepal, the Sherpa paid little
attention to them.  Now that the numbers have increased and the
Sherpas' services are in demand (Sherpas have historically acted as
guides, leaders, cooks, porters, etc.), trekking has encouraged a
"get-rich-quick" mentality.  The result has been a decrease in
agricultural production, since it generates less income, and a
decrease in school attendance, children dream of becoming guides
and drop out of school the moment they get the chance to join an
expedition.  The Sherpa see money now when they see a "white

Villages are also becoming more dependent on cash rather than the
traditional means of barter and reciprocal labor.  This has meant
that villages are changing from being self-reliant into being
dependent on "tourist dollars and outside resources to meet their
daily needs."  More and more agricultural fields are left fallow
as more men are leaving to seek wealth from tourism.  This means
that more food must come from outside and that there is less of it,
causing higher prices.  The higher prices are a hardship on those
families who do not have income from tourism.  Other traditions are
disappearing such as the custom of drinking Tibetan salt-and butter
tea.  The price of butter makes this drink nearly unaffordable and
the supply of tea is uncertain since trade has also been disrupted
by the beckoning wealth of tourism employment.

The Sherpas have not saved or invested any of their income
generated from tourism.  Rather, they have spent it on Western
items, further degrading their traditional culture.  "Trekking
Sherpas," as they have come to be known as, have discarded their
traditional dress for "imported hiking boots, colorful wool
sweaters, and down parkas."  

The division of the village into trekking Sherpa and non-trekking
Sherpa has resulted in the creation of a new type of class. 
Whereas there were always class divisions in the past, all of the
people dressed and lived in a relatively similar manner.  Today
donning the Western wear, the trekking Sherpa and his wealth is
easy to distinguish from a farmer.

Another affect of tourism is that local crafts are dying out. 
These crafts can not generated the same amount of income as tourism
and the supplies needed are harder to obtain.  The Sherpa now have
access to cash, hence they are now able to purchase manufactured
items rather than make their own.  Wool is one item which has
become scarce, hence layers of cotton must be bought and worn to
keep warm.

Trekking is one of the highest paying employments in Nepal today. 
The wealth available from this job draws many youngsters out of
school and into tourism.  Teaching and government jobs, once
considered very prestigious, are no longer desirable since they do
not provide the same income as trekking.  It is ironic that many
youngsters are leaving school since one of the qualifications
needed today in trekking is knowledge of spoken and written Nepali
and English.  The youngsters may be even more valuable if they
would continue their education rather than leave after a few years. 
It is also ironic that the Sherpa do not enjoy the trekking.  To
them, "climbing is simply a high-paying job."

The trekking Sherpa are also forced to reflect the image projected
upon them by the Western visitors.  The Sherpa wear masks, having
a public side for the world to see and a private side which is true
to themselves.  It is hard for the Sherpa, who work twenty-four
hours a day, to maintain the public mask.  Some Sherpa see
themselves partly as actors and entertainers.  It is only when the
trek has ended that they may unveil themselves and "engage in
drinking binges and general hell-raising that may go on for

Finally, there is the disruption to the family life.  The men are
often away from the home ten months of the year.  Many of the
trekking Sherpa who are married, keep another woman in the cities
where they stay in-between treks.  Other Sherpa are enticed by the
forward gestures of Western women, who often initiate the affair. 
"A number of Sherpa women have lost their husbands or fiancs to
foreign women."

Perhaps a far greater concern is the loss of life.  The decreasing
number of young men has meant that many women are burdened with
raising the children and with the responsibility of the farm-work. 
The young unmarried women are also disadvantaged since there are
fewer young men.  One must begin to wonder if it is justifiable to
endanger the lives of the Sherpas so that others may enjoy

26.  Human Rights:  NO

27.  Trans-Boundary Issue:  YES

Like Nepal, Tibet is also facing some of the same ecological
pressures.  The deforestation that occurs is threatening the
Himalayan watershed (made up of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra
Rivers).  As people continue to strip the forests for fuel and to
create more cropland, the soil erosion begins.  In addition to soil
erosion being caused by deforestation, there is also concern that
the forests serve as refugees for wildlife and their destruction
may lead to the destruction of some species, including the rare red

Another affect may be the invasion of tourism into Tibet.  Since
the Himalayas are such a popular destination and located in more
than one country, the adventure tourists may push into Tibet once
there are no longer any "authentic" villages left to visit in

28.  Relevant Literature

Baumgartner, Ruedi. "Tourism and Socio-Economic Change: The Case of
the Rolwaling Valley in Eastern Nepal." in Singh, Tej Vir; Smith,
Valene L.; Fish, Mary; and Richter, Linda K. (eds.). Tourism
Environment: Nature Culture Economy. New Delhi: Inter-India
Publications, 1992.

Bishop, Barry C. "A Fragile Heritage: The Might Himalaya." National
Geographic. Vol. 174, No. 5 (November 1988), pp. 624-631.

Brandon, Katrina. "Basic Steps Toward Encouraging Local
Participation in Nature Tourism Projects." in Lindberg, Kreg and
Hawkins, Donald E. (eds.). Ecotourism: A Guide for Planners and
Managers. North Bennington: The Ecotourism Society, 1993. 

Brandon, Katrina Eadie. "Planning for People and Parks: Design
Dilemmas."  World Development. Vol. 20, No. 4, (April, 1992), pp.
Fisher, James F. Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal. 
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Gurung, Chandra P. and De Coursey, Maureen. "The Annapurna
Conservation Area Project: A Pioneering Example of Sustainable
Tourism?." in Cater, Erlet and Lowman, Gwen (eds.). Ecotourism: A
Sustainable Option?. Chichester, New York: John Wiley and Sons,

Heinen, Joel T. and Kattel, Bijaya. "Parks, People, and
Conservation: A Review of Management Issues in Nepal's Protected
Areas." Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary
Studies. Vol. 14, No. 1 (September 1992), pp. 49-84.

Kohl, Larry. "Heavy Hands on the Land." National Geographic. Vol.
174, No. 5 (November, 1988), pp. 632-651.

Nicholson-Lord, David. "Hitting--and Obliterating--the Trail."
World Press Review. Vol. 41, No. 1 (January 1994), p. 48.

Norbu, Mingma. "Grass Roots in a Himalayan Kingdom." in Kemf,
Elizabeth (ed.). The Law of the Mother: Protecting Indigenous
Peoples in Protected Areas. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1993.

Putenney, Pamela J. "Defining Solutions: The Annapurna Experience." 
Cultural Survival. Vol. 14, No. 2 (1990), pp. 9-14.

Rowell, Galen. "Annapurna: Sanctuary for the Himalaya." National
Geographic. Vol. 176, No. 3 (September 1989), pp. 394-405.

Shoumatoff, Alex. "The Mountain is Rising." Conde Nast Traveler.
Vol. 26,  No. 9 (August, 1991), p. 96-99, 118-120.

Stevens, Stanley F. "Tourism, Change, and Continuity in the Mount
Everest Region, Nepal." Geographical Survey. Vol. 83, No. 4 (1993),
pp. 410-427.

von Frer-Haimendorf, Christoph. The Sherpas Transformed: Social
Change in a Buddhist Society of Nepal. New Delhi: Sterling
Publishers Private Limited, 1984.

Zurick, David N. "Adventure Travel and Sustainable Tourism in the
Peripheral Economy of Nepal." Annals of the Association of American
Geographers. Vol. 82, No. 4 (December 1992), p. 608-628.


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