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Nepal quake hits already fragile tourism industry

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Nepal quake hits already fragile tourism industry

Still reeling from storms that killed nearly two dozen hikers late last year — was dealt another major setback after an earthquake killed more than 1,400 people Saturday. The magnitude-7.8 quake, the country’s worst in 80 years, packed hospitals in the capital of Katmandu and triggered avalanches in the Himalayas. At least 17 people were killed on Mount Everest.635655686775021308-AP-Nepal-Earthquake-Avalanche

Tourism is a major source of revenue for the largely agricultural nation, which is one of the world’s poorest. Visitors from around the world, particularly India and China, flock to its Buddhist temples, majestic mountain retreats and, for expert climbers, the challenge of scaling Everest. But a rash of deaths in the nation’s mountains threatens to check the industry’s growth. In October, a series of snowstorms and avalanches contributed to the worst hiking disaster in the nation’s story. About 40 people were killed on or near the Annapurna Circuit in northern Nepal, including international trekkers and their guides.

An avalanche last April on Everest killed 16 Sherpa guides, the highest death toll ever for an avalanche on the world’s tallest peak. The guides protested the government’s lack of protection for them by refusing to work, canceling the climbing season. Hundreds of climbers make summit attempts on Everest each year.

In 2013, tourist arrivals in Nepal fell slightly after four years of growth, according to the government. But visitors have continued to spend more each year, and foreign exchange earnings from tourism make up roughly 20% of the country’s goods and services exports. “We have received calls to cancel almost 90% of close to 1,000 bookings to Nepal,” said Sharat Dhall, president of online travel agent Yatra, told India’s Business Standard.