Authorities in Nepal are banning solo trekking from next month.
The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs said from September, independent travellers heading for the Himalaya will have to be accompanied by a porter or guide.
The move comes after the murder of 23-year-old Belgian trekker Debbie Maveau, whose headless body was found in June near a trail in the Langtang National Park.
Officials said the change in policy was for safety reasons after Ms Maveau’s death and other trekkers’ disappearances. They said this was having a negative impact on the country’s reputation as a trekking destination.
Trekkers traveling in groups are already required to use government-registered trekking agencies.
Bahadur Khadka, first vice-president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, said the decision means all trekkers will have to take the service of government-registered agencies. He said this will control illegal operation of trekking business.
TAAN general secretary Mohan Lamsal said: “The decision will help promote Nepal as a safe destination for tourists at a time when international media are questioning the safety of foreigners in Nepal,” adding he wanted to see the policy incorporated into the Tourism Act.
Trekking operators said the change will add about $10 a day to walkers’ costs. “This is a very nominal amount and it won´t affect tourist arrivals,” Anjan Thapa, treasurer of TAAN, said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs took the decision earlier this month following mounting pressure from tourism entrepreneurs, diplomatic missions and families of missing tourists.