Kathmandu, November 27:

The secretary for culture, tourism and civil aviation Madhav Prasad Ghimire on Monday formally kicked off preparations for the forthcoming Himalaya Tourism Conference 2006 on December 11-12 in Kathmandu.

Organised by the Nepal Mountaineering Association in collaboration with the Nepal Tourism Board, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), WWF, Nepal, and Himalaya Environmental Trust, Nepal among others, the international event will coincide with the celebration of the golden jubilee of the first ascent of Mt Manaslu and Mt Lhotse.

The celebrations for the latter, scheduled for May, had been postponed till December.

According to Ghim-ire, with the peace process in place, it was important to inform the international community that Nepal was a safe destination to travel. Outlining the main objectives of the conference, he said it was firstly meant to revive and promote mountain tourism in the country and secondly, discuss ways to reduce the negative impact of tourism on the environment and preserve the mountain culture.

The third main objective was to extend the benefits of tourism which was confined to urban areas to seep down to rural areas as well.