Coronavirus in India & its effects on Adventure Himalayan Treks in 2020
19th APRIL 2020 – Over the last one month, the rapid spread of Coronavirus has changed its status from ‘The China Virus’, to a PANDEMIC. It originated in the previously unknown (to the layman), “wet market” region in Wuhan, China. However, it soon spread to the rest of the world. At the beginning of March, a mere 2 weeks ago, there were only 32 cases being reported. In India, the spread of Coronavirus was being observed by the masses with mild curiosity. In fact, the thought of infection, or its spread had zero impact on the festival of HOLI, celebrated on the 10th of March. Several rumours started doing the rounds, that the virus is ‘sensitive to temperature’. This would prevent it from spreading in warmer countries, while the opposite appeared to be true in colder climates.
Of course, at the time, the Corona Virus started spreading, slowly but surely across the country, being carried by the ignorant. Gradually, there was a growing influence on various industrial segments, especially the Travel Industry, which was responsible for the spread of the Coronavirus. In our industry, many Adventure Travel operators continued to reassure their clients by pointing out the actual cases of Coronavirus in India. The fact that none of the Himalayan States were affected by Coronavirus was highlighted. Some even went as far as saying that, these states and Himalayas are completely safe. The message being promoted as of the 6th of March 2020, was that there is no need to cancel any of your trek plans.
Suddenly, in the last week, the power behind the word Coronavirus has attained mythical proportion. The virus has spread across the entire Globe and is affecting everyone. With the official announcement on the 11th of March 2020, by Dr T. Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, that COVID-19 is characterized as a Pandemic, the worst fears of Governments across the world were realized. No more can the Coronavirus, be referred to by the ignorant as just the ‘China Virus’.
The announcement triggered a series of reactions across the globe, with its effect, felt in every Industry. In India, on the 12th of March, with over 100+ reported cases, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India released a COVID-19 TRAVEL ADVISORY. This outlined travel restrictions to both Indians and Foreign Nationals, applicable till the 15th of April, 2020. These restrictions impacted both Outbound as well as Inbound Tourism. The largest impact on the Adventure Travel Industry came two days later ( 13th of March) with an official notice from the Department of Immigration, Government of Nepal. The notice suspended all Visa-On-Arrival with effect from midnight till the 30th of April. This was followed by an ‘Urgent Notice’, from the Director Mountaineering Section, Department of Tourism, Nepal, suspending all Climbing Permits for the Spring season 2020. This effectively, closed the gates on the biggest mountain of the world, Mt Everest. Soon after, all trekking permits in Nepal were suspended as well. Popular treks like the Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Base Camp
had to be cancelled.
Over the last few days, each State Government has placed restrictions on movement and on workplace aggregation. Though part of the Criminal Procedure Court, SECTION 144, came into effect in several states, which prohibits the assembly of 3 or more people. The thought of travel has been the furthest thing on people’s minds. In Sikkim, the Lachung Dzomsa, a traditional administrative institution that functions as local self-government since the ‘King’s Era’ in North Sikkim, passed a resolution to bar tourists and even workers from other states from entering Lachung with effect from 12th March 2020. As of today, the 19th of March 2020 with over 170+ cases being reported, most Adventure Travel operators have suspended their trek departures. This decision was not out of choice, but out of necessity.
In the last 10 years, as part of Adventure Pulse, we have dealt with economic recessions and natural disasters. However, dealing with a ‘Force Majeure’ of this magnitude in the last week has truly tested the resolve of our entire team. Our team at Adventure Pulse has worked tirelessly Despite the challenges attributed to suspended treks on account of International and Domestic Travel restrictions. Watching them proactively reach out and speak to all of our clients, reassuring them to the best of their abilities, has been a matter of pride. Being able to empathize with the frustrations of our clients is as important as is being able to celebrate their triumphs.
On our part, to facilitate their Adventure, and mitigate the financial impact to each of our clients, we have given out an option of deferring treks to any date over the next 1 year. In addition, we have tried to carry forward as much of their payments towards the trek to this date. Despite the uncertainty of the future, our endeavour will always be to assure our clients’ safety and promote their spirit of adventure.
Following the concept of prevention is better than cure, our constant encouragement is to stay healthy and keep fit. At Adventure Pulse, we have kept it simple by following a 5 step safety advisory protocol:
- HANDS – Wash them often.
- ELBOW – Cough into it.
- FACE – Don’t touch it.
- SPACE – Keep a safe distance.
- FEEL sick? – Stay home.
Self-quarantine appears to be the safest way of preventing the spread of this virus, irrespective of Coronavirus Symptoms. It is important to remember that this too shall pass. In the midst of this wave of Global concern and despair, all hope is not lost. As of today ‘s report in the Bloomberg business, China reports zero new cases of Coronavirus. This gives us tremendous encouragement for the future. Once this danger has passed, the mountain will be right there waiting for you; and so will we to facilitate your next BIG ADVENTURE.