The last time I came to Nepal just four months ago, the Basantapur Durbar Square, one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley, was teeming with tourists marveling, like me, at over four centuries of magnificent and colourful temples, palaces, and statues. Many of them would go on to trek through the country’s vast expanses of hills and mountains. Every year, these million or so tourists would bring in huge revenues for the restaurant and hotel industry, and provide employment for tour guides and handicraft makers, not to mention sellers of backpacks and thick-soled walking boots. Taking jobs into account, tourism used to account for about 8% of the Nepali economy.
The April earthquake and many aftershocks have reduced several of Basantapur‘s ancient buildings to mountains of brown rubble, surrounded instead by plastic tape and signs warning people not to get too close. There are far fewer tourists...