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Three Places in Mustang Want to Open Up for Tourists! They’re Asking to Leave Restricted Areas Due to Tourism Troubles.

In a bid to address tourism hurdles, three local governments in Mustang district have appealed to the government for the exclusion of their territories from the list of prohibited zones for foreign visitors.

The government’s designation of Lomanthang, Loghekar Damodarkunda, and Baragung Muktikshetra rural municipality-3 as restricted areas prompted the chairpersons of these local units to voice concerns. Chairman Tasi Narbu Gurung of Lomanthang rural municipality emphasized the adverse impact of high entry fees on tourism, causing a decline in tourist arrivals and adversely affecting local livelihoods and economic activities.

“Reduced tourist influx due to the elevated entry fees has significantly impacted local tourism businesses in Upper Mustang. Our appeal to remove these areas from the prohibited zone aims to restore economic vitality,” Gurung stated.

The local government representatives have submitted formal applications, accompanied by community decisions and endorsements from local hotel entrepreneurs and rural municipalities, to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Chief Minister Surendra Raj Pandey of Gandaki Province, and Minister for Forests and Environment Dr. Birendra Kumar Mahato.

During official visits to Mustang in recent months, including in the months of Asoj and Kattik, the memorandum was presented to the concerned authorities.

Upper Mustang, part of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), mandates a special permit costing USD 500 per person for a 10-day visit by foreign tourists. Any extension beyond this duration incurs additional fees.

Apart from Mustang, the government has similarly declared select areas in Manang and Gorkha as prohibited zones, raising concerns among local leaders about the challenges faced by foreign visitors seeking entry into these zones.

Rinzin Gurung, chairman of Baragung Muktikshetra rural municipality, highlighted the difficulties faced by foreign visitors in accessing these prohibited zones, significantly impacting local incomes.

Statistics from the ACAP management office revealed a drastic contrast in tourist numbers, with only 3,388 visitors to Upper Mustang, classified as a semi-prohibited area, compared to 71,700 tourists visiting the entire district of Mustang in the fiscal year 2022/23.

This appeal from local units aims to strike a balance between preserving cultural heritage and enabling sustainable tourism, seeking a resolution that benefits both the local community and visitors to the region.

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