The effect of SARS in 2003. The outbreak of the SARS virus played havoc with many expeditions visiting China in the pre-monsoon season. On April 25 the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region announced that it was closing its borders to both Chinese and Foreign tourists. Travel permits to enter Tibet were immediately withdrawn and two days later a similar pronouncement was made in Kathmandu and Zhangmu (the Tibet border post on the Friendship Highway connecting Kathmandu and Lhasa). Fortunately, most pre-monsoon mountaineering expeditions to popular destinations such as Everest, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma (Xixabangma) had already entered the country, though other smaller trips with later departure dates were forced to cancel or postpone their plans to the autumn. At the end of May there were no confirmed cases of SARS in Tibet, though according to the Ministry of Health, the neighboring province of Sichuan had a total of 17.
Coming shortly after a spate of terrorist activities in Nepal, this dealt yet another body blow to the Nepalese tourist agencies, many of which derive considerable income from the organization of Tibetan tours. Fortunately, despite initial pessimistic predictions concerning the length of time the country would be closed, the Chinese Government officially re-opened Tibet to foreign visitors on July 1 and other regions were quick to follow.