Phudoma Sherpa, a resident of Khumjung village in Khumbu Pasanglhamu rural municipality-4, is experiencing a sense of solitude this winter.
In stark contrast to previous years when tourist arrivals were normal, this winter has brought a sense of desolation, she shared. “Last year witnessed a regular influx of tourists, but the noticeably lower number of visitors is a cause for concern this winter.”
Confirming the decline, the Sagarmatha National Park Office in Namche reported a 30 percent fall in tourist visits to the Sagarmatha region this winter. Compared to 1,920 tourists who visited the Khumbu area last year, only 1,329 have turned up this year, revealed Manoj Kumar Mandal, the information officer at the Park Office.
Of the total, 455 were domestic tourists and 1,465 were foreigners last year. This year, the Khumbu region has seen 120 Nepali tourists and 1,209 foreign visitors.
As temperatures drop, the Khumbu region, usually vibrant with tourist activity, has taken on a desolate appearance. The Park Office attributes this decline to the plummeting mercury.
The tourist season in this region typically spans six months, with peak times occurring in the Nepali months of Asoj, Kartik, and Mangsir. During the peak season, as many as 1,000 tourists visit the Khumbu region daily. However, with the current off-season, the number has dwindled to hardly five to seven tourists a day, according to Information Officer Mandal.
Laxman Adhikari, Chairman of Ward-4, noted that tourism entrepreneurs are currently experiencing downtime. Even the locals have migrated from villages to escape the harsh cold.
In the off-season, many locals explore new places, mentioned Sujan Kumari Bardewa, Chief of the Area Administration Office in Namche.
Places like Lukla, Namche, and Khumjung are now somber with limited movement of people.
As the chilling winter sets in, locals often head to warmer places, including Kathmandu, and some embark on religious visits to destinations like Bodhgaya, India, added Tilak BK, a teacher at Khumjung Secondary School.
Most Khumbu residents prefer to stay in Kathmandu during the cold winter months.