Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - In order to increase the flow of people who wish to climb Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, the Nepali government has announced significantly lower fees for foreign tourists.
The new regulations have already attracted hundreds of climbers, who have cancelled deals with Chinese agencies that provide the same service.
The mountain is accessible from both sides, and for years, both governments have required climbers to pay climbing fees.
Under the new rates, climbers will see fees for the Southeast Ridge, the most travelled route to the summit, drop from US$ 25,000 to 11,000 during the spring season. Other routes will cost US$ 10,000. In autumn, fees drop to $ 5,500 (from US$ 12,500). In summer and winter, they will be US$ 2,750 (down from US$ 6,250).
However, the new rules require that individual climbers hire a high altitude officer. Previously, it was common to see one or two officers for groups of up to 15 people.
The new rates will come into force from 1 January 2015.
"Many foreign team are ascending the Everest, so we were losing on royalties," said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesman for Nepal's Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
"To encourage individuals to climb Mt Everest, we have slashed fees," he explained. This way "the Everest can be saved from increasing traffic during the peak season and its security and purity can be preserved."
"We hope that once new fee structure comes into effect, chances of merging teams will decrease as this has significant impact on accidents," he added.
Many reports also indicate "that mountain climbing groups are cancelling on the Chinese side and coming over to the Nepali side to climb Mt Everest after the fee is reduced."
Although China will be the loser, so far, there has been no reaction to Nepal's move.
"We are happy with the new fee that attracts hundreds of mountaineers from across the globe," said Pempa Dorje, a mountaineer working for World Wide Trekking.
Foreign tourists "are cancelling their contracts with Chinese mountaineering agencies because that side has more risk. At least a hundred have signed contracts with the Nepali side".