Nepal’s living cultural heritage sees fewer tourists post 2015 disaster


A massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale shook the Nepali capital of Kathmandu and the surrounding districts on 25 April, 2015. The powerful quake and the subsequent aftershocks claimed about 9,000 human lives, injured several thousand more and destroyed properties worth billions of dollars. As well as the damage in other sectors, Kathmandu valley’s heritage sites that attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year and provide the backbone of the economy in their areas, suffered irreparable damage.

A recent research article published in “Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Education” discusses the impact of the earthquake on Bhaktapur’s tourism. Bhaktapur is one of three ancient towns in Kathmandu valley located east of downtown Kathmandu. It is considered the cleanest and purest among the three Durbar Squares: Kantipur, Patan and Bhaktapur, as the other two have been encroached to some extent by urbanization.

The research article titled “Natural Disaster and Heritage Tourism: A Study on the Impacts of Earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal” by Prof. Dr. Ramesh Raj Kunwar and Usha Chand shows that the number of tourists visiting Bhaktapur after the earthquake dropped sharply, affecting the livelihood and economy of the historic town.

While 6,808 tourists from outside South Asia visited Bhaktapur in April/May 2015, the number decreased to 11 in May/June 2015. In June/July 2015, 1,117 tourists from outside South Asia visited Bhaktapur compared with 5,095 in the same period the previous year. While the number of tourists who visited Bhaktapur in the fiscal year 2013/14 was 290,891, the total number fell to 244,144 in 2014/15.

The reduction in the number of tourists has not only affected revenue collection through entrance fees in the town and the museum, but has also affected local businesses. Many souvenir shops selling wooden artefacts, metal and bronze sculptures and pottery have suffered physical damage to their shops due to the earthquake.

According to the research article, shopkeepers say their income has decreased 50-80% as compared to a no-earthquake scenario.

“The recent earthquake has taken its toll on Bhaktapur’s local economy, especially in and around the Monument Zone,” observes Dr. Kunwar, author of the research article. “The businesses of souvenir shops have seen the great depression.”

Most of the 300,000 people living in this small Malla-kingdom-turned-historic town touted by many as ‘living heritage’ are engaged in tourism-related business. Tourism provides 60% of the cash revenue in Bhaktapur.

Of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur is considered the richest in terms of arts and culture. Many people term it the ‘living heritage’ due to the intricacies of the lifestyle of the people in this artistic town.

Several important religious and historical structures of capital Kathmandu valley were reduced to rubble by the quake. Temples, old monuments and other sites in the old Durbar squares of Malla era in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur survived maximum damage. The total damage to tangible heritage is estimated to be NPR 16.9 billion (USD 169 million). The earthquake affected about 2,900 structures with a cultural and religious heritage value.

The article “Natural Disaster and Heritage Tourism: A Study on the Impacts of Earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal” appears on the latest issue (Vol. 6, 2016) of the Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Education, pages 1-39. The article is made available online via Nepal Journals Online (NepJOL) platform, which is part of the JOL Project supported by INASP.

About the Journal

Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Education is an annual journal that covers issues related to tourism in Nepal. The journal, edited by Prof. Dr. Ramesh Raj Kunwar, has been published since 2010 by AITM School of Hotel Management.

About NepJOL

Nepal Journals Online (NepJOL) hosts over 100 journals published from Nepal, covering the full range of academic disciplines. The objective of NepJOL is to give greater visibility to participating journals and to the research they convey. NepJOL was initiated in June 2006 and officially launched in September 2007. It is a project supported by INASP and locally managed by Tribhuvan University Central Library. It aims to promote the awareness and use of Nepal-published journals in all disciplines by providing access to tables of contents (TOCs), abstracts and full text on the Internet.


INASP is an international development charity working with a global network of partners to improve production, sharing and use of research information and knowledge, so that countries are equipped to solve their development challenges. In particular, INASP works to strengthen the availability, access and use of international research information by researchers in developing countries and the production, quality, dissemination and access of research outputs from researchers in those same countries.

Disclaimer: Research published in journals hosted on the NepJOL platform is selected by the journals in accordance with their own editorial processes and criteria. INASP and Tribhuvan University Central Library provide hosting and guidance on good practices but are not involved in selection of research.

For Further Information

Thakur Amgai, Communications Consultant, INASP

Dr Sangita Shrestha, Communications Officer, INASP


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