KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepal is considering a plan to lease Himalayan peaks to private tourism companies, an official said Tuesday, in a bid to ease traffic on Mount Everest and help jumpstart the economy.
The proposal would involve hiring out some of the 326 Himalayan peaks that are currently open, in an attempt to lure climbers away from the main drawcard of Everest amid fears of congestion.
It one of several new measures - including lower mountaineering fees - designed to attract more climbers to the impoverished country, which counts tourism as a key revenue earner.
"We have begun discussion on leasing unclimbed peaks to the private sector, to promote these mountains as new tourism products," Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesman for the tourism ministry said.
"We are open to both Nepalese and foreign private companies...we are confident that if the plan goes ahead, it will generate revenues for Nepal," Mr Sapkota told AFP.
He declined to say when the government would implement the proposal, adding that the finance and tourism ministries were discussing the number of peaks that could be included and the length of leases.
The proposal would need to be passed by cabinet to get the green light and if agreed may take several months before its implemented.
The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), a national body representing tourism promoters, welcomed the proposal, saying it would be "a very good step".
"The private sectors can sell tourism products better in comparison to the government sector," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, NMA president.
"Private sector professionals have good networks worldwide and can bring more climbers and tourists to Nepal," Sherpa told AFP.
In recent weeks, Nepal has introduced a raft of measures to boost tourism and also allay concerns of overcrowding on Mount Everest.
Officials have slashed mountaineering fees for a range of other peaks, while requiring each climber scaling Everest to bring back eight kilograms of garbage in a bid to clean up the "roof of the world.".