Will The Nepal Earthquake Affect Tourism? The Country's Economy Heavily Relies On Foreign Visitors

Authorities in Nepal are continuing to search for survivors following Saturday's deadly 7.9-magnitude earthquake, but some are already looking ahead and wondering, will the Nepal earthquake affect tourism? Nepal heavily relies on its tourism industry, which includes religious monuments and picturesque mountains. As harrowing as the earthquake was, it should not deter future visitors from visiting the South Asian country.

Tourism is the biggest industry in Nepal and brings in the most foreign revenue for the poor nation. The average worker makes less than $750 a year, according to World Bank figures, so tourism is seen as an important way of providing socioeconomic opportunities for its citizens. In 2013, travel and tourism contributed more than one million jobs, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

An estimated 300,000 foreign tourists were in Nepal, many visiting for hiking and the climbing season in the Himalayas when the earthquake hit, according to Reuters. The country has eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world, including the highest peak with Mt. Everest, which alone attracts 35,000 visitors annually. While some choose to climb the mountain by themselves, many visitors rely on sherpas to guide them to the summit. These tours can cost up to $120,000 a person.

At least 18 people at Mt. Everest were reported dead after the earthquake triggered a massive avalanche, according to The Guardian. Dozens more are trapped and missing. As terrible as the death toll is at Mt. Everest, it's unlikely the earthquake will deter future visitors. The mountain is one of the most dangerous climbs in the world, with most understanding the risk of venturing to the top of the world's highest mountain.

PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

Nepal is also a major religious destination for Hinduism and Buddhism. The Pashupatinath Temple, located in Kathmandu, is the world's largest temple of Hindu god Shiva. The sacred temple reportedly sustained minor damage from the earthquake. Lumbini, which is considered the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, is also located in Nepal. So far, there have been no reports this Buddhist site was damaged. Despite the tragic deaths and injuries from Saturday's earthquake, Nepal will likely continue to attract tourists eager to undertake religious pilgrimages.

The capital city of Kathmandu is a popular tourist destination and endured much damage due to its proximity to the earthquake's epicenter. Iconic landmarks such as the Dharahara Tower and Darbar Square were reduced to rubble. Around 200 people were reported inside the Dharahara Tower when it collapsed. Rescue efforts throughout are continuing throughout the night.

Image: Getty Images (1)