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The Future Of Travel Insurance In Nepal

The Tourism Ministry of Nepal has introduced a new bylaw that requires all climbers who want to tackle Everest to submit their full medical history and to show proof of a specialist travel insurance policy that includes air and ground, search and rescue; and in-country medical assistance costs.

After a deadly season on Everest, where nine climbers lost their lives earlier this year, these new measures have been introduced in an effort to reduce the amount of deaths on Everest.

However, not one of the nine deaths on Everest in 2019 were caused by pre-existing medical conditions and all nine travellers did have insurance to climb Everest, which begs the question of how this new bylaw will make Everest safer.

In fact, this is just one of several new measures that will be introduced over the coming months.

A Tourism Ministry insider who wishes to remain anonymous has confirmed that the Nepali government are in talks with two large insurers, in India and China, to underwrite a plan that would make it mandatory for all foreign visitors to purchase a Nepali travel insurance policy upon arrival in-country; and would void all foreign insurance in the country.

This would mean that all foreign travel insurance companies will no longer be able to cover travellers to Nepal, and all helicopter rescue and medical assistance would be handled in-country by the local assistance companies assigned by the insurer(s).

The Tourism Ministry has also ditched its liaison officer program after it was revealed that Nepali government appointed officers were pocketing the money and never actually deploying to the regions that they were assigned to.

In their place, the Ministry has confirmed that they are looking at plans to deploy Nepali doctors, police, military and rescue specialists to rescue points around the Himalayas in an effort to take control of, and coordinate helicopter rescues.

While this is not expected to happen until the Autumn climbing season next year, it has been suggested that this new development is in preparation for Nepal trying to control the entire insurance and assistance market in their country.

Since the beginning of 2018, after a six-month travel insurance fraud investigation into the helicopter rescue scam in Nepal, Traveller Assist has deployed their own team of expat medical staff each trekking season to Nepal, based at common rescue points, in a bid to reduce fraudulent cases and improve response times for actual rescues.

Danny Kaine, Head of Assistance at Traveller Assist said, “This new bylaw is yet another example of a government who are trying to find solutions for problems they don’t understand. A majority of the deaths that occurred this season were as a result of the crowds that formed at bottlenecks on Everest, resulting in extreme frostbite, hyperthermia, altitude sickness, exhaustion and death.”

Industry experts from around the world have all agreed that a combination of too many climbing permits being issued to climb Everest in 2019 and lack of organisation of so-called, specialist trekking organisations; is what caused a majority of the crowds and ultimately the untimely deaths of climbers.

With the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign coming up for 2020, and Nepal expecting over 2 million visitors; which is an 80% increase of visitors to Nepal so far this year; unless measures are put in place that actually makes trekking in Nepal safer; next years death toll is expected to rise.

Written By Danny Kaine, Head of Assistance at Traveller Assist.

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