Nepal has eased quarantine rules for visitors in an effort to attract more climbers to Mount Everest, officials said Friday, after the pandemic wiped out last year's season and devastated the tourism industry.

Nepal relaxes quarantine rules ahead of Everest season

Visitors will be tested on arrival and will have to stay in quarantine only until their results come back negative, under a policy made public Thursday evening.

"We expect that climbers and trekkers who were postponing expeditions or trips due to tough rules will be coming to Nepal after this decision," Mira Acharya, director at the country's tourism department.

Previously, visitors had to be quarantined for seven days.

They will still need to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR result before arriving in the country.

Dambar Parajuli, president of the Nepal Expedition Operators Association, said the decision "opens the doors for the revival of tourism."

"This sends a positive message. Last minute bookings are unlikely, but it will help in the long term," he said.

Nepal has so far issued 45 permits for various Himalayan mountains, and there are expected to be around 300 foreign climbers on Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

The Tibet side of Everest continues to be closed to foreigners this year, possibly adding more climbers on the Nepal side.

The organizers of the expedition are preparing in Kathmandu and some climbers are already climbing to their camps.

The pandemic forced Nepal to close its borders just before the start of last year's busiest mountaineering season.

This was a devastating blow to the thousands of people in Nepal, from guides to hoteliers, who depend on the climbing industry for their livelihoods.

Before the pandemic, Nepal struggled to cope with the large numbers of people reaching the top of Everest, with sometimes deadly consequences.

In 2019, the traffic-jammed spring climbing season saw a record 885 people climb the peak, 644 of them from the south and 241 from the north flank in Tibet.

The season ended with 11 deaths on the mountain, and at least four were attributed to overcrowding.