How has Mount Everest tourism affected Nepal?

Everest's Economic Benefits

Pricey pastime: Nepal's government charges climbers thousands just to set foot on Mount Everest.
Pricey pastime: Nepal's government charges climbers thousands just to set foot on Mount Everest.
Jake Norton/Aurora/Getty Images

The easiest way to get a grip on how much money Nepal takes in from tourism is to take a close look at what the Everest tourist spends. You might be surprised how quickly the numbers climb.

If you're one of the 25,000 annual Everest tourists, getting into Nepal for more than a three-day stay will only run you $30 [source: Nepal Tourism Board]. But that's just the beginning of the tab. If you want to climb one of the major Himalayan mountains, you need a government-issued climbing permit. Although you can hike more than a hundred of the smaller peaks for free, who wants to play in the sandbox when the beach is next door?

Mountains taller than 21,300 feet (6,501 meters) are premium property. That base height costs $1,000 and increases $500 for every 1,640 feet (500 meters). Since Mount EverĀ­est stands at a staggering 29,029 feet (8,848 meters), the permit will run around $3350.

Now that you've got your permit, you're ready to start climbing, right? Not quite. If you want to take the most common route to the top of Everest, you'll owe the Nepal government a $25,000 royalty fee for yourself or up to $70,000 for a seven-person expedition crew [source: Nepal Mountain News].

Can't afford it? Wait until the off-season. To increase Everest tourism during the colder months of the year, the Nepalese government announced in 2007 that it was trying to cut royalty fees for people interested in climbing Everest during fall and winter. If the proposed plan goes into effect, a September through November climb will be 50 percent off the regular price and one from December to February will be 75 percent lower. If you're lured into the sales price, Nepal winds up raking in off-season tourism money.

Once you get to the Khumbu region, there are other expenses as well, such as lodging, food and any additional supplies that aren't covered in your expedition fees. In addition to trekking businesses, more than 300 hotels and lodges have sprung up from the tourism, many of which are owned by the local Sherpa people [source: Reid and Kendrick]. Some people turn their homes into tea houses, or overnight lodging, for tourists who want a more "authentic" Himalayan experience. Hundreds of Nepalese men from other areas swarm into Khumbu as well, hoping to get work as porters on expeditions, hauling trekking equipment up Everest slopes on their backs. Even the high-altitude Buddhist monasteries draw income from passing tourists.

However, tourism carries its own price as well in the form of environmental destruction. Read on to learn about the environmental repercussions of Mount Everest tourism.