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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fewer Climbers = Bigger Fees on Everest

This week China announced that it may limit the number of tourists on and around Mt. Everest next year, ostensibly for environmental reasons. "We need to limit the number of people who want to climb Mt. Everest, who exert a negative impact on the environment," Zhang Yongze, the director of Tibet's Bureau of Environmental Protection, said to China's Xinhua news agency. "We will also need to strengthen management of commercial activities involving (the mountain). We don't want so many visitors to disturb the peak."

The Chinese said they are planning a major clean-up of the Tibetan side of the peak in the first half of 2009, and indeed visitors have said the Tibetan approach to Everest is trashed. But the Chinese share full responsibility: Last year the government completed a paved road to Everest base camp—hardly a way to limit environmental impact. As laudable as a clean-up would be, a more likely explanation for limiting the number of visitors is continuing concnern about adverse publicty at a time of Tibetan unrest. China closed Tibet to mountaineering completely this spring after protests in Tibetan cities erupted into riots in mid-March. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight from Tibet, and Chinese authorities are likely to have Lhasa in a virtual lockdown.

Here's another possible explanation for restricting numbers on Everest: supply and demand. The Chinese may be hoping to raise peak fees again by limiting the number of permits. Currently, peak fees on Everest are much higher on the Nepali side of the mountain, starting at $25,000, with discounts to $10,000 per person for multiple climbers. In Tibet the fee was just $4,900 per person in 2007, the last time the mountain was open. But the fee jumped more than 60 percent that year. If China reopens Everest to mountaineers in 2009, expect smaller numbers to yield much bigger fees.

1 comment:

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