South-Asian Economic Development
Impact of Tourism in Mount Everest Region: Approach to Modernization and Economic Dependency
Nepal was opened to foreign visitors in 1950 after two centuries of isolation. Annual tourist visit was as low as 10,000 until 1965 but dramatically increased in the following decades. The majestic mountain ranges have always been the center of attraction for many visitors, attracting increasing number of tourists each year particularly for trekking and mountaineering activities. The Mount Everest region, locally known as Khumbu, is the gateway to many majestic mountains including Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Khumbu is located in the high altitudes of the north-eastern part of Nepal. It is set in the valley of Imja Khola enclosed by majestic peaks rising above 8000-metres such as Mount Everest, Lhotse and Cho Oyu. Khumbu is located at the headwaters of Dudh Koshi near the Tibetan border and there are eight Sherpa inhabited villages in the area. Khumbu is home to Sherpas whose primary occupations were high-altitude animal herding and subsistence agriculture. Sherpa Sherpas were also involved in annual trans-Himalayan trade where they conducted barter exchange of Tibetan salt and wool for rice, maize, millet and wheat with Sherpas and Rais of lower Dudh Koshi area. s are Mongoloid and Buddhist and share closer cultural ties with Tibet than Nepal. Increasing tourism activities have transformed the lifestyle of Sherpas in numerous ways. Until 1964 only mountaineering expeditions were allowed to visit Khumbu but after the region was opened the number of visitors multiplied to 8000 and increased even more in the following decades. Most of the trekkers are from United States, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The most popular time of year to visit this area is in October and November when the weather remains clear.
Objective and Framework
The objective of this paper is to study the transformation of Khumbu region due to tourism activities. The study will attempt to evaluate the effect on the economy, society, culture and environment of Khumbu region and evaluate whether it can be considered a successful model of tourism-led development. I will be utilizing the framework of modernization and economic dependency to study the changes brought about by tourism in Khumbu region. Modernization will include the evolution and integration of social structures into greater political and economic systems with technical, social and cultural transfer from ‘modern’ to ‘traditional’. I will utilize the framework of economic dependency to study the evolving interdependency at regional, national and international level brought about by the advent of tourism in Khumbu region.
Transformation of Economy
Greater employment opportunities and increasing affluence
The government of Nepal emphasizes development and growth of tourism in order to secure foreign exchange and to stimulate economic growth. Increasing tourism activities has lead to increasing prosperity of Sherpas and elevation in their living standards. While the annual per capita income for the nation was $229 (2003, WDI), annual per capita income for most of the people in Khumbu area was $1400. Sherpas, who were involved in higher altitude work, earn average of $7000 annually which is substantially above the national average. Mountaineering in Khumbu region is a source of substantial foreign exchange for the government of Nepal. A royalty of $50,000 is charged for a team of 7 people and additional $20,000 is charged if the team wishes to scale Mount Everest from East Ridge route. The ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation also requires the expedition team to keep monetary deposit subject to refund after the dispatch of garbage from Nepal. Most of the...