Friday, March 27, 2009

Freakonomics: The problem with non-profits - A response

This was written in response to an article that appeared in the New York Times Opinion column Freakonomics. The article is titled

My comment:

1. Salaries need to be paid. And if you give peanuts, you will only get monkeys.

2. The problem with non-profits lies elsewhere hidden in issues of accountability and connected to this is the demands of donors to “perform” (whereas there is no objective definition of what that performance is nor an indicator to measure it) and the resultant misuse (not corruption, just ill management) of a valuable resource such as money, specially in poor countries.

The latter, in my belief is a much much larger problem for charities, and will require a sea change in philosophy and practice.

I think it is pretty clear and does not need elaboration at all.

Lately, though, through my various affiliations with charities (some started by private sector and some by the development sector) I am more and more convinced that the only type of development that seem not to waste this valuable resource is the one initiated by the private sector.. I am a private sector entrepreneur, and put 10% of profits into charity.. when I do my charity, I want every penny to go to the cause, in a right responsible way, and since it is my hard earned money (OK, my organisations hard earned money) I will make damn well sure that it is accounted for and is done right (at least, from my understanding of what is right and wrong)

- Raj Gyawali

The author suggest the following in his post

I am writing to suggest a blog topic about a book I recently finished reading called Uncharitable [by Dan Pallotta]. Uncharitable concludes that the constraints society places on non-profits leave them unable to solve the great social problems of the world. The book argues for the capitalization of philanthropy, including: competitive wages to attract the best applicants, increasing spending on advertising to build demand for philanthropy, and allowing investors to purchase stocks in non-profit organizations so philanthropy is not capital barren.

One of the key points of the book is that the method we currently use to evaluate charities, through efficiency ratios, provides no information about the effectiveness of an individual charity and leads an organization to focus exclusively on the short term (at the cost of long-term planning) and develop extreme risk-averse preferences (which leaves them unwilling to take risks which could lead to innovations).


The comments eventually stray to the problems of non-profits and the wastage through high salaries etc.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another milestone: our trips in Spain

In another milestone achievement for we have started a working relationship with Maka Ecotourism from Spain.

The first trip will start in July with a couple going into Nepal and Tibet.

This is another success of the Fringe Responsible Travel Network which started at WTM two years ago and just recently had its third meeting at ITB. The next meeting is in April at SATTE, Delhi.

This is what Maka say of themselves on their website @

Makà Ecotourism is a travel agency, located in Barcelona and set up by a group of intrepid Ecotravellers with working experience in the fields of tourism, education and international co-operation. We offer you a great variety of routes and Ecotourism trips based in natural sorroundings, giving you the chance to discover another way of travelling.

Our themed guided tours are specially designed to take you to some of the most enchanting places in Catalonia, in small groups. We design tailor made itineraries escaping from the conventional, well trodden tourist circuits and we organice special trips for those having a hobby. With a personalised travel consultancy service, we offers you the opportunity to partake in sustainable and responsible tourism trips and holidays.

These include trekking, walking, horseback riding, bike tours, birdwatching, flora and fauna spotting, scuba diving and kayaking, activities in Natural Parks and Protected areas, rural tourism, cultural excursions and historical journeys throughout the whole of Catalonia.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - Partners in Norway

As on today, we have started a partnership with, who are based in Norway.

Ethical Travel Portal organizes learning experiences in responsible travel! Together with their local partners in destinations the trips aim to give a different kind of experience. One can take part in activities as a tourist and at the same time gain knowledge how responsible tourism is making a difference in local communities. They want to share the value of responsible tourism and give clients an eye opener experience to tell their friends and family back home. Feel free to contact them at

From the website, the about us section says:

Ethical Travel Portal was established to meet the growing demand for in-depth knowledge in the field of sustainable and responsible tourism. Passionate about responsible travel, we realized that the best way to close that gap was to bring travellers to the destinations and learn from the local experts.

This unique concept provides a learning experience in responsible travel to various destinations. The trips are tailor made in cooperation with our local partners who are specialists in their communities. They use tourism as a tool to 'create better places for people to live in and visit'. Travellers get an insight on how they have successfully created positive impact in the local community and the surrounding environment.

Our trips focus on giving the traveler a deeper understanding about responsible tourism and ethical issues. Travelers are encouraged to use the achieved knowledge in their future jobs, travels and daily life. Or simply spread the message about responsible tourism and how to be a responsibe tourist. Our destinations and partners are handpicked by Ethical Travel Portal. We are convinced that our travelers will benefit from the trips thanks to our and our partners’ knowledge of each destination.

Linda Veraasdal,
Founder and Director


socialtours is partnering with them to provide learning experience in responsible travel in Nepal. Currently we have one trip that will go on their website very soon. It involves a lot of cultural interactions, stay in eco-lodges, a small trek through the Chepang Hills, visits in Chitwan of a Tharu project besides jungle activities, and ending it with some responsible shopping with members of the Fair Trade Group Nepal. Of course, the whole trips is peppered with a lot of learning opportunities on responsible tourism. also offers similar trips to Gambia, India, Uganda and Norway.

Follow them on twitter here

Friday, March 20, 2009

Comment: the need for professional Adventure Graduates

This is a comment on the article entitled New Zealand nurtures adventure students that appeared on .. read the article here

Finally the industry can get people trained for this purpose, not just interested people who have to be trained from scratch.

In Nepal, where my business is located, there is a big need (as opposed to demand) for professionals in adventure of all types... soft, medium and hard core.

We have tons of trained guides, raft guides, paraglider pilots, mountain bike specialists, etc... but all of them have learnt it on the job (which mind you is not a bad way to learn) but there is the other side of things... customer service, leadership skills, etc. which is greatly lacking. Our guides are excellent in just that... but what is required is leadership.

Hopefully a program such as this can produce future leaders, and not just workers... that is what the industry requires!

This is not a place to advertise, but Nepal would be more than willing to take in a few interns... I know my company would!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Profiling the Eco-Guest

this is a comment made to the article on

Green is the new Luxury on Travel Mole written by Sally Broom,

I was at this interaction too, and it was very interesting. The one thing that really hit me was that no one really knew who the eco-guest was, and I love this fact.

Gone are the days when you can profile a consumer based on how much money he/she has and what the education level is. I used to be in the consumer market research business several years ago, and it will be interesting to see how market research will tackle this new challenge. The difference now is that people are basing their purchases on values and principles (and this is not income or education driven). Its fantastic and exciting.

We are so used to follow an old age approach of divide and rule (basically fit everyone into boxes and then market to them) that we forget that this is a wonderful opportunity to market to everyone. And the challenge to cater to such a vastly different clientele is awesome.

The initiatives mentioned at this interaction were also wonderful, albeit a bit targeted to only the rich customer, whose eco/non eco balance might be a bit skewed, but it was interesting / inspiring to hear this prespective.

The Green Circuit on TravelMole!

TravelMole, the industry's leading newswire, put out a special report on the Fringe Networking of Responsible Tourism that happened at ITB on Friday the 13th (wow, did not realise that was the day).

Read the article on TravelMole here

There were some fantastic pitches, and the "green circuit" was one of the initiatives launched... and it got a mention. Read all about the Green Circuit here

Thanks Velere for putting it in there. Support such as this will help us take this forward. Watch this space for the developments as it happens.

As on now, I am working on working on the feedback we had, finding a better name for the circuit (getting out of the green), documenting it, so that we can report at WTM on how it went forward, tyring to get the players to meet up at SATTE next month, so that we can finalise the product and launch in India too and on our websites...

Lots of work, but so so exciting!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Response: Slum Tourism confusions

This is in response to the article on the Worldhum website. Read the article by Eric Wiener here

Slumming It: Can Slum Tourism Be Done Right?

I think it is very well put Eric, and I appreciate that you have not only written about it from one side, I think though you have a clear opinion, the article is very balanced. It is very difficult to say when tourism starts becoming voyeuristic and unjust and irresponsible and what the borders are.

Using an example from my country, is going through a poor village in the mountains of Nepal and “looking” into their lives irresponsible? Some of these villagers are poorer than the Mumbai slum communities.

I think that we are too quick to draw a line in our minds between good and bad. What is important is that the practice needs to be right. A school for the slum kids can make a big big impact and difference in the lives of the people in the slums. Agreed, that if the tours were going to Tak Mahal and the donations to the slum school, it might have been better, but there are chances of making a bigger impact by taking the tours (responsible practices apply here) through the slums itself. There is a cross-cultural aspect of tourism that cannot be ignored, that understanding each others conditions can help foster a better global thinking between humans!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Green Circuit - as on today!

On the day of the pitch at the ITB Fringe Network Meet, this is the status of the "green" circuit.


Tour Operators involved so far:
HELP tourism
Grass Routes Journeys
The Blue Yonder

The circuit connects select RT operations and projects in Nepal and India (at the moment) through train and ground transport (to reduce the carbon footprint as well give another very fulfilling experience of traveling over land).

The product is excellent, some highlights are included in the short descriptions in the posts below.

The theory behind the circuit is in the last post!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eastern Himalaya - Red Panda, Tea and Elephants Trail - from Help Tourism

22 days, culture, wildlife and tea gardens

East Himalaya is a part of one of the EIGHT HOTTEST BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS of the world. This is a part of the Indo-Burma region. Other then India, the East Himalaya touches the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal occupies more than 100,000 sq. kms of East Himalaya approx. which is about 25% of the Indian Himalaya. This shows a major portion of the Himalaya is existent in the East. Similarly, the whole of Nepal and Bhutan are a part of the East Himalaya. The rich biodiversity and cultural diversity of East Himalaya has further reaching effects and extends the region in a compact zone from Bay of Bengal to the snow capped ranges of Mt.Kanchenjunga and Mt.Everest.

The topography varies from the estuarine landscape, passing through low foothills reaching upto the highest mountains of the world, the Mt. Everest and the Mt. Kanchenjunga. A massive area is covered with snow glaciers feeding a large network of rivers, the major ones being the Brahmaputra, Ganga, Lohit, Dehing, Jiabhareli, Koshi, Rydak, Torsha and Teesta. The areas below the snow are mainly used for forestry, agriculture, grassland habitations and infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs and roads. The forest cover is about 140,000 sq. kms even after losing about two third of the forest in the last few decades. The East Himalaya is the home of more than a hundred indigenous communities, with unique cultures & origin.

The biodiversity explored till date provides mind boggling figures, about 8000 species of angiosperms of which 3200 are endemic, 800 species of birds, 150 species of reptiles, 80 species of amphibians, 200 species of fishes and the list continues.
More than 80 wild relatives of crops belonging to cereals, millet, pulses, oil yielding plants, spices and fruits have been recorded here in scientific studies.

Keeping in view whatever little that has been described, the ecological importance of the region is beyond question. The ethnic diversity is so vast that more than 50% of the population and their cultures are still waiting to be explored.

Mt.Kanchenjunga, towering at 28,156 feet, the third highest mountain in the world is considered as the Guardian Deity of the region and dominates the landscape of the whole area including Darjeeling Hills, Dooars-the foothill forests, Sikkim state and the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Your experience in this tour includes unique opportunities to visit the picturesque and remote Himalayan villages, Tea Plantations, and some of the outstanding ecological sites, and interact with the local community. Enjoy a taste of their lifestyle and be a part of it while staying with them, experience local crafts, cuisine and even be entertained in their local cultural tradition. The people of villages are your hosts. They have proudly retained most of their cultural tradition and self-sustaining lifestyle.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

South India - Malabar Holidays - The Blue Yonder

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Malabar Holidays
14 days, culture, spice tour, beaches, homestays

Malabar was once a British Principality of India. After Independence, Malabar as a state was no longer recognized and the region was divided to form the northern part of what is today called Kerala. Though Malabar has no geographical boundaries, no presence on a map of India, it still exists as a state of mind: laid-back, slow, to live and let live.

This is the spirit we capture in this package that begins with Cochin and goes along backwaters, River Nila, Mountains of Wayanad , and ends at the virgin beaches of Kannur in Malabar region.. While most of Kerala is recognised as a traveller’s must–visit destination, Malabar is yet to be discovered. And hence to the uninitiated offers a plethora of delights ranging from a river cruise to legend trails to spice tours to tea estate visits to craft villages and heritage sites.

This is a Kerala where the everyday and exotic merge seamlessly. For a traveller who is weary of experiencing shrink wrapped plastic package tours, the Malabar leg comes minus hype and spin and instead is a way of life that asks little of the traveller except an open mind.

Catch some details of this trip on the Blue Yonder Website here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Green Circuit - Nepal - The Tamang Heritage Trail

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The Tamang Heritage Trail
17 days, culture and easy trekking

About 150 years ago, Nepal fought Tibet over salt, and some of the biggest areas where this war took place is in the Langtang Region of Nepal, wherein lies the third most popular trekking trail in Nepal. This area is connected to Tibet and the trails in this region were used by traders from Tibet bartering in Salt and mountain goats for meat (changra) with foodstuffs from the south. Developed by the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program, the "Tamang Heritage Trail" is the newly developed tourism product, off the beaten track, which highlights an ancient lifestyle combining it with picturesque scenery and healing baths in natural hot springs.

This trip will be preceded by a trip to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, as you come across from India into Nepal. Once the trek is over, we will take you to the famous Chitwan National Park for some game viewing and jungle activities including Elephant back safari. You will also visit a project on papermaking from Elephant dung.

This trip is contributed by & to the "green" circuit!

Orissa Odyssee - 15 days - by Grass Routes Journeys

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Orissa Odyssey
15 Days Kolkata - Visakhapatnam

An epic adventure through timeless India; stretching from the bustle of India’s renown cultural capital Kolkata, through vast tracts of pastoral plains and palm-fringed paddies, to dense mangroves and tranquil boat rides twisting though the tangled mangrove forest of Bhitarkanika National Park. From natural wonders to the irrepressible man-made marvels of ancient India’s earliest temples at Bhubaneshwar and Konark to the sea swept coastal town of Puri, one of India’s Char Dhams (four holy hotspots of Hinduism). Cruise along Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest salt lake lagoon and camp under a starlit sky. Join festive weekly markets where indigenous cultures converge; interact with peoples imbued with centuries of independent traditions. Traverse rustic countryside and tap into the simple pleasures of village life in timeless rural India.

contributed to the "green circuit" by Grass Route Journeys. Check their website here


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