Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Namaste from the socialtours team,

What a year 2010 has been and as we come to the end of this year, it gives us tremendous pleasure to wish you all the very best for Christmas and the coming New Year, and of course, eventful travels in 2011!

We started this year basking in the joy of having made the November 2009 edition of the National Geographic Adventure magazine (as a recommended operator for the Great Himalayan Trail) and also the September 2009 edition of Lonely Planet, along with having completed our first ever Responsible Tourism Audit report. This had an impact on our bookings this year, as a recognition from the markets is always something that gives you a boost, and we would like to thank each and every traveller / volunteer that came through us this year. To top it all, we got nominated for the fifth time this year at the Responsible Tourism Awards in the UK.

Over the years, we have been moving more and more towards the ultimate goal that we have, to build trips that are experiential, and of an immersive nature. This has sunk in even more in the product development this year, as we developed trips like the Dolpo Yak Caravan, being marketed by World Wide Active in Austria, or voluntourism trips like "Nursing the Giants" and "Inspiring the Future", both being marketed by Nielsen, through our long standing partners, People and Places, in the UK. We have also a week long voluntourism Village Stay component attached to a commercial trip that is being marketed by Explore in the UK.

These were just some simple additions to the trips like "A Responsible Peak into Nepal" and the Yoga Trek holiday being already marketed by Ethical Travel Portal in Norway.

We have also moved into providing holiday experiences for families, as we recognise the potential that Nepal offers for an active family. We have developed an active family vacation, that involves biking, yoga, cooking lessons and a hike to these active families.

The focus on immersive travel has been given a big boost this year, with the signing of the contract in April between socialtours and Save the Children Alliance in Nepal. Over the last few months, we have focussed in meeting partner NGO's of Save the Children in Nepal and developing volunteering options in schools, and also developing charity trips for some of their causes. We are concentrating on this at the moment, as this gives us a tremendous opportunity to bring the benefits of tourism and travel philanthropy right where the demand is, and get involved in development through tourism.

Voluntourism got a big boost this year as we received a steady stream of volunteers into the projects that we support - Samata School, OCCED orphanage and Antardristi Counseling Center. In the future, this will grow even more as we are preparing more projects, in Kathmandu and outside the valley, to take volunteers. Thanks to all the volunteers who have come this year and helped put in another layer of quality into the good works that these projects do.

At the regional level, the initiative that was launched in 2009 to bring responsible tourism operators together in South Asia, moved even closer, as we conducted joint participations at travel fairs, and conducted strategic meetings to solidify these partnerships under the name of the Green Circuit. You will hear more about this as we move into the New  Year.

Special thanks goes out to all the travellers who believed in what we are doing. Your confidence and the feedback you have given is a pat on the back, letting us know that we are moving forward.

We would also like to thank the partners in the industry - Internationally People and Places, Tripbod, Ethical Travel Portal, World Wide Active, TUI Premium, The Blue Yonder, Grass Routes Journeys, Spiti Ecosphere, Help Tourism and nationally Tibet Hotel, Kantipur Temple House, Park Side Hotel, Barahi Hotel, Candle Inn, our excellent guides and porters, and all the other stakeholders in Nepal without whose support and confidence, we cannot achieve what we have aimed to do.

The team has been dynamically changing this year. Nima moved on to start a new company, and we wish him the best. Tassi moved to a bank, but we think she might come back, and Paljyor went into the Jeans marketing business. We have new members in the team like Devendra, Dikendra and Dibya, who are moving the wheels forward. We also have the pleasure of having Scott come in from the US, who will be with us till June 2011 and also Jenefer, from the UK, who will work with us till May. Its a great team, as we saw during our retreat weekend at Chitwan, which just ended.

The future is bright, as we move into Nepal Tourism Year 2011, our offers are increasing, as is the confidence of the travellers and the stakeholders in us. Together, we are confident we will achieve what our mission states - exceeding holiday makers expectations on one side and linked prosperity on the other. A win win situation, and a third win as we move ever deeper into Responsible Tourism.

Best regards and wishes for the new year.

The socialtours Team.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nepalese New Year time again! its 2067 Bikram Sambat!

Happy New Year! We thought it’s a great time to greet you and also update you on whats happened last year at started in May-June 2002, and we have come seven years now, soon entering into our eight year of existence. It has been a wonderful journey so far, working with a wonderful team and full of very rich experiences.

2066 BS was another memorable year. We had a new person addition to the team. Most of you already know Tassi, who looks after our international correspondence. We also, at the very end of the year, had our oldest member of the team, Nima Lama, leave us, to move on to another realm in responsibility, Climate Change. He is now heading a team working on climate change and indigenous peoples in Nepal. Kudos to his achievements and best wishes for the future, and warm memories of his wonderful work at socialtours since the very beginning.

We also stepped our responsible practices one notch this year, completed the first ever Responsible Tourism Audit, which was externally audited. This report is available online at our website and is a benchmark of our achievements and also helps guide the future of responsible practice in this company. We are proud of this achievement. Thanks to Jenefer Bobbin and Harold Goodwin for believing in us on this, and most of all, to the socialtours team for doing all the hard work.

Last year was also eventful in that we launched the Green Circuit initiative in London, bringing together five different initiatives in the Indian sub-continent under one Green initiative @

We also reached another landmark when we finally got ourselves mentioned in the Responsible Tourism section of Lonely Planet, and got recommended by National Geographic Adventure as one of the operators running parts of the Great Himalayan Trail, ranked among the 25 best new trips in the planet.

Our voluntouring programs are also taking a big leap this year. In the beginning of April, signed a contract with Save the Children, Nepal and Bhutan, which aims at increasing social tourism efforts of voluntourism and Charity Tours for the projects and schools that they support in Nepal. We are all very excited about that!

Last but not least, just before writing this note, I noticed that a lot of hits were coming through to our website. Tried tracing it down and found out that a wonderful review was left by one of our travellers, and basically that the travelling responsibly in Nepal section was entirely about us. Thanks. This sort of trust and confidence really helps us work even harder.

“Even though time there was brief ( 2 days) - the staff provided amazing insight into the city and the country that travel books couldn't explain. Their compassion and sensitivity for the people and environments they interact with can help a traveler realize how rich, wise and generous the Nepali culture and people in general really can be.” – on

Well, so much for updates. We hope you have a smashing 2067!

See you in the mountains!

Raj Gyawali
for the team!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

socialtours signs contract with Save the Children!

Children pose for Photographer Fredrik Pettersen, Sep 2009, Chepang Hill Trail

A historic day for socialtours as it reaches eight years of operation in May 2010. Today, Raj Gyawali, Founder Director, socialtours and Brian Hunter, Country Director, Save the Children, Nepal & Bhutan, signed a contract to promote social tourism and fundraise to support children's issues in Nepal. This is in keeping with both organisations long term commitments, Save the Children's commitment to support children's issues and socialtours commitment to find avenues to integrate tourism into social development.

This agreement will touch on two different inter-related areas of Voluntourism and Fundraising Tours.


Volunteers from different sectors can be of help to contribute and transfer their skills for SC program through their support for partner NGO's, schools and children. Volunteers can be students, tourists, individuals, corporate or from any sector. This program will intergrate volunteering into stand-alone tourism packages (hence falling under the perview of Voluntourism) whereby visitors mix social engagement with leisure activities as part of their tour in Nepal. At socialtours, volunteering has always been an immersive way to travel, integrating social work with tourism activities, so this fits perfectly into this model.

Fundraising Tours

Fundraising tours in Nepal will be arranged specially for individuals and their groups residing abroad and in Nepal. Such tours value-add to existing stand-alone tourism packages for tourists in that it includes an element of giving back to the communities that they visit as part of their tour. Such tours may also be adapted to Charity Challenges, where a group of sponsored individuals undertake an adventure challenge. ST are experts in designing tailormade adventure tours, and SC is a perfect partner for incorporating a cause component.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Local Travel sets its sights on becoming a key trend in 2010

April 7, 2010 – In mid-March, the Local Travel Movement trumpeted a call to people and organisations with a passion for local travel and commitment to local travel values. The promising early reverberations of this new, international, free-to-join movement have already inspired more than 40 organisations to join a growing list of partners at

The Local Travel Movement was initiated by a core coalition of people from companies that believe Local Travel is greater than the sum of its parts. The Local Travel Movement is now already a rallying point through which, by working together, Local Travel companies can help give locals a real voice, engage travellers and develop a stronger ethical dialogue within the travel industry.

Given the diversity of partner companies, the Local Travel Movement is not overly descriptive. Rather than define ‘local travel,’ the Local Travel Movement simply places value on an approach to travel that is mindful of local people, the local environment, local culture and the local economy. It proposes four easy steps to becoming a local traveller:

• connecting with local people before, during and after a trip
• travelling in a manner that is sensitive to the local environment
• respecting local heritage and culture
• spending money locally.

While these actions may seem self-evident, the Local Travel Movement prioritises this conscious and conscientious shift in attention to the direct connection between visitor and local host. For travellers it's a chance to get under a place's skin (and let it under theirs), while also making the most of their travel time and saving money by spending locally. For host communities, it is vital for enforcing the beneficial qualities of tourism, maximising a general awareness of the local culture and minimising 'leakage' from the local economy.

The partners of the Local Travel Movement believe now is the time to embrace, develop, promote and establish Local Travel as the responsible way forward in tourism.


For more information and interviews, please contact:
Ethan Gelber, WHL Group (,
Bart van Poll, Spotted by Locals (,

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tibet re-opened!

Tibet has been re-opened for travel. Anyone is thinking to do a nice Tibet tour, can plan for it now. The best time of course is from about April to October. We promote two trips and a third one is on the drawing boards

The Road to Lhasa - a 8 day drive in fly out, or fly in drive out trip to Lhasa, which gives you healthy overdoses of the magnificent landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau and Buddhism.

Trip to the Center of the Universe, Mt. Kailash - a 14 day land journey which also includes a hiking Kora - a circumbulation of this beautiful mountain, a religious site for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains alike.

Find these trips here

The one on the drawing board is another of socialtours initiatives in working together (we are working with a local agency in Humla (the remote western district in Nepal bordering the Mt. Kailash Region in Tibet), who will run a six-day trek in the remotest parts of Nepal before reaching the border, crossing over, driving to Mt. Kailash and then exiting through a road border near Kathmandu. This will give you the best of both worlds, compacted in a approximately, 21 day journey!

Well, basically giving you a heads up to start planning Tibet again!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How local travel benefits Nepal!

Finally, a movement that will hopefully bring more and more travelers to travel locally. Over the years, this type of travel is growing. Am talking about the new website, a website bringing together proponents of local travel all in one place, so it is visible and has a movement status.

socialtours just joined it as one of the partners from Nepal, as this is where we are based, and this sort of movement is crucial for us, as we market direct and have to rely on clients who are aiming to buy locally.

Alex Narracott ( has described quite adeptly in an article entitled The importance of 'travelling local' in adventure sports (read it here) and I completely agree with him when he summarises at the end in this way

"Experience, access and sustainability. Three very good reasons why the adventure world as a whole - traveller, host and intermediary - should all being looking to go local at every opportunity"

I like to focus on the sustainability part. This is crucial for the future of businesses and the stability of the economies in the long run. As more and more people travel locally, all aspects of the business, from marketing to operations to after sales, start being performed by local operators, giving them much needed capacity boost, pride, skill enhancement etc, which in the long run will serve them good.

Agents also have a very short bursts of loyalty towards a destination. It is only local operators who are dedicated to marketing and selling a particular destination. In Nepal, this came to the attention of the 'ground handlers' (spoilt by year and years of just ground handling for western companies) quite starkly when the Maoist insurgency and the negative Travel Advisories hit the industry. Agents in the West turned away much too quickly (even though not a single Westerner was targetted through the 15 years the insurgency went through), leaving a big void, and taking back the industry about 13 years in terms of arrivals. If the local operators were capable, this would never have happened.

It had desirable effects too, as the men separated from the boys and Nepal started taking reign of its tourism again. There are more operators now who promote local travel and are taking control of their own markets.

A movement such as this will go a long way in supporting Nepal and the sustainability of tourism in this tiny country. Kudos in starting this!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Photo Essay: Trekking Langtang in Nepal

Photo Essay: Trekking Langtang in Nepal

Posted using ShareThis

An Astonishing Trip to Nepal - Results in 3 Life Changing Lessons

Taken from an article @ written by Walter Bauens.

After traveling to South & North India beginning 2010 we (my wife Viviane & I) arrived at Kathmandu February 23th for a tailor made trip. A Yotran Travel Your Dreams excursion. To Learn More Click Here.

It included learning from the Nepalese culture, challenging our own life’s and beliefs and having fun with spiritual & Yoga experiences. We had three weeks; we kept the initial days formal with our local Yotran partner, had a tentative schedule and then sat down and decided what to do. I personally suffered already from the famous bacteria, which caused severe diarrhea, a typical phenomenal when you travel through those countries.

  • Step 1: Go to a Tibetan Doctor and get healthy again
  • Step 2: Experience a guided heritage trip through Kathmandu
  • Step 3: Have unique local Yoga experiences and meet local people to exchange ideas
  • Step 4: Plan the trek of 8 days through the Himalaya (Helambu & Langtang region) with maximum height of 4.700 m (15,000 feet)
  • Step 5: Check your physical condition with an ayurvedic doctor and get a customized diet for our trekking
  • Step 6: Do meet the astrologist to challenge and understand your luck by the philosophy of the stars
  • Step 7: Warm up with a trial Hike Day to be prepared with an in depth briefing at the end for all practical issues of the trekking.

Continue reading this article here

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Responsible Peek at Nepal

Following is an article one of our travellers, Fredrik Pettersen, wrote after he travelled with us to Nepal. Enjoy your reading;

The majestic snow-capped peak of the mountain range Himalayas is seen in the distance. I'm looking down on the small fields covering the hills around Nepal's capital Kathmandu. After 16 hours long flight from Oslo (with a stopover in Zurich, Switzerland and Qatar) the aircraft is approaching Kathmandu.

I travel with Ethical Travel Portal. This is a Norwegian tour operator specializing in trips out of the ordinary. Focus on their tours is learning experiences in responsible tourism. We travel off the beaten track and visit various projects. We meet local grass root operators to learn from them how tourism contributes to positive development for the people in their communities. And not at least it provides a lifetime of memories for us who travel. In Nepal, Ethical Travel Portals local partner is socialtours. This is a travel company that cares about people and nature in Nepal and takes responsibility thereafter. We get an insight in the work they are doing on responsible tourism. Ethical Travel Portal and socialtours base their business on the responsible tourism. We learn about this throughout the whole trip; from problems as plastic bottles to positive establishment like the community library for the local people in Chitwan.

Kathmandu is different and colourful. The traffic is chaotic. Crowded bus - decorated trucks and entire families on the tree that fills a scooter is a common in Kathmandu. The narrow alleys in the city centre are crowded with hopeful sellers with their stalls - as well as rickshaws who desperately offer its services for Western tourists. We cross the two rivers Manohara and Hanumante when the sun is setting. Along the river banks we see settlements consisting of tin sheds which reminds us that we are travelling in one of the world's poorest countries.

It is 05:00am and I enjoy a cup of coffee at a square in Bhaktapur, one of Nepal's largest and historically most important cities. This is definitely of the cultural treasures in Nepal. The streets are dark and wet after the night's rain showers. The city is beginning to wake up. Fresh produce fruits, vegetables and animals are in the process of putting colour on the town. I think of those people who have carried their products all the way to the city - often on their back using a rope that is fastened around the forehead.

Chepang Hill Trail is a good starting point to experience Nepal. There are days, often weeks between each tourist here which allows us an off beaten trekking experience. The profits from travellers are also therefore minimal - it is only an extra source of income.

We are walking in a lush landscape and the path that leads us up to the trip's first "home stay" is steep. Our porters are from one of the small villages on the trek. We hear their story and learn about the porters issues in Nepal. Most Norwegians are raised to "carry there own stuff". But by having a porter the traveller contributes to economic growth in rural Nepal. After passing schools and villages we arrive the village we where we will spend our night. There is no electricity and the locals are isolated from the outside world. The kitchen where they eat and store food acts as a bedroom at night. The dinner is today's highlight. Here the whole family - three generations –is gathered. They cook and serve Phapar Dhindo which is a typical Nepali dish that consists of buckwheat. The local wine made of rise and is served as beverage. We spend time with the family and hear about how it is to run a home stay here and the function of the homestays network in Nepal.

Our breakfast consists of popcorn and tea before continuing our trek. For generations, this track has been the hearth of the small communities along the hillside. The fog is thick as porridge and dark clouds threaten in the distance. The atmosphere is majestic. Day after we meet school children in freshly coated uniforms walk up and down the steep mountain slopes on the way to school. Women and man are carrying their harvest. We are close to Shaktikhor where our trekking ends.

Chitwan National Park is one of the major tourist attractions in Nepal. You can do the ordinary tourist bits, but Chitwan has more to offer than trips to the jungle! We got a responsible insight. Small projects have evolved like the Elephant dung Paper Project where they produce paper from elephant dung and sell the products. Deforestation is a major problem in Nepal. This is a project to prevent the use of trees to make paper by using an alternative method.

Another project is The Biogas Village. Cooking inside with open fire is not good for either your health or the nature. By using biogas as a source energy solves some of the problems. The biogas is developed from elephant and cow dung. This gives a better life for all who are lucky to be part of this project. Tharu Handicraft is a project in which women from the Tharu village have come together to create products of straw, like pot holders and baskets. These are great gifts and you are assured that all money goes directly to the women who create the products.

Back in Kathmandu we meet Bivor Lai Shrestha the leader of OCCED (Organization for the community, child development & Environment) in Nepal. They have several orphanages around in Nepal for children up to 15 years. In Kathmandu and Nepal in general there are a number of orphaned children. The parents of these children are in a situation where they are not able to take care of the children of different reasons or the children are brought in by the police. At this orphanage, we meet excited children and see that they are been taking very good care of.

I am left with many impressions. Travelling with Ethical Travel Portal I saw a different side of Nepal and received an impression how tourism can contribute to positive development for the local population. Nepal is a paradise for photographers - as a photographer it is important to respect the locals and a take no for a no. We had a guide from social tours during the entire trip as willing asked the locals if they could photograph or if it was ok to photograph the place we were. Travel in a country where cultural differences and living standards are so differently from Norway does something to you. It helps to understand and respect people from another culture and gives a good opportunity to make friends for life.

Ansvarlig Turisme:
Ethical Travel Portal:

Text / Photo - Fredrik Pettersen

See some of his photos on Flickr.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Congratulations Lhakpa!

Hearty congratulations to Lhakpa from all the team members at socialtours for grabbing the 3rd position in the Ice climbing training held at Phortse in Jan 2010.
Lhakpa is one of our few female guides and also an extreme marathon runner, who has has also won the Everest Marathon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

RT Fringe Meet, Kathmandu: Press Release

03 Feb 2010

The Responsible Fringe Meeting held on 02 Feb 2010 at the Dechenling Garden Restaurant was a grand success. Over 50 individuals, including 17 students and faculty from three leading tourism institutes - SMSH, NCTTM and NATHM - participated in the event organized by travels and Silver Mountain Institute of Hotel Management, and sponsored by Everest Summit Lodges.

The meeting focused on inspiring students from the tourism institutes’ in Kathmandu on responsible travel and also giving them some exposure to what’s happening in the world of Responsible Tourism. This was the first event of its kind to be conducted in Nepal, inline with international events such as this conducted regularly at WTM London and ITB Berlin.

Apart from networking with industry professionals from Nepal and around the world, the ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ also got an opportunity to hear short inspirational words from dignitaries such as

Andrew Jones, Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong: about the need for everyone to have a commitment to make a small change and giving back to societies
Bharat Basnet, Kantipur Temple Hotel, Nepal: about the need to respect local traditions and culture, which is the best asset we have.
Marcus Cotton, Tiger Mountain, Nepal: about the importance of perseverance, and working with local communities
Marianne Heudge, Travel To Care, Denmark: about the need to be trained, and having the proper education required, plus working towards a goal.
Chandra Ale, Initiative Outdoor, Nepal: about the importance of advanced experiential training to develop leadership skills
Tony Jones, Himalayan Encounters, Nepal: about the importance of just doing your very best.

The students got a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with industry professionals from Nepal, India, France, Bhutan, Denmark, Germany, United States etc. with a diverse range of industry experience, all with one thing is common – a passion for responsible and sustainable travel.

About the organizers travels ( are Responsible Tourism Award nominated soft adventure specialists based in Nepal. They are Nepal’s only travel company who has started a process of a responsibility audit, and are four time nominees for the prestigious Responsible Tourism Awards in WTM, London

They are a recommended operator by National Geographic Adventure magazine November 2009 for the Great Himalayan Trail, recognized amongst the 25 best new trips in the planet. They are also initiators of the Green Circuit (, a circuit combining five responsible tourism operators in the Indian subcontinent, recognized by M Magazine, Delhi to be among the 10 best new experiences to look out for.

t: 4412508, e:

Silver Mountain Institute of Hotel Management (SMSH) ( SMSH prides itself on giving world class education offering a Higher Diploma in Hospitality Management recognized worldwide, in affiliation with an Educational Institute of American Hotel and Lodging Association (EL Of AH & LA), USA &Bachelor in Hospitality Management from Preston University, USA. SMSH has the finest facilities and infrastructure for its students within the premises for various subjects. The School endows students with the capability to "take the classroom out of the class room" with a hands-on experience of practical training.

t: 4415038 e:

Summit Lodges ( offers the ultimate in luxury treks in the Himalayas amidst the world’s loftiest mountains. The lodges in Kathmandu,Lukla, Monjo, Tashinga, Mende, Pangboche and Kagbeni are all built with a strong awareness for the protection of its environment , local culture and its people.

Each lodge has a traditional style and local hospitality, is in exceptional locations, carefully chosen, away from crowded trails but surrounded by natural and scenic beauty.

t: 4371537 e:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We are now members of

We are delighted to have been accepted as one of the early members of, a carefully selected community of fantastic adventure providers who have a strong ongoing commitment to sustainability.
You can see us featured as part of their local travel directory, which puts you in direct contact (no commission) with handpicked active holidays, tours, courses and accommodation. The site also provides travellers reviews, the resources you need to book a low carbon journey, and have started a collection of community built guides to each activity or sport, where users are invited to share their favourite spots, useful info, ideas and inspiration.
Since going live a few months ago the site has grown quickly. aim to build the widest and fairest selection of responsible adventure travel and equipment choices that outdoor lovers have ever seen, and bring support to many important conservation and community development projects around the world.
You can help us to benefit from this site by leaving a review of us, and by spreading the word to your friends.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The socialtours RT audit is out!

Finally, the RT Audit report for 2009 is done! We have a record of the successes of the initiatives we have been working so far in terms of responsibility. This excercise has also helped us bring out some of the dirty laundry and helped us learn where we can make improvements.

Feel free to download a copy of this report, have a read, make comments / suggestions. We are welcome to feedback and / or criticism. There is one thing we know. This will go a long way in us living up to one of our important company values - continued excellence.

It has been exhausting, the biggest learning being that even a small, young organisation, committed to responsibility, has a difficult time making the nescessary adjustments, required for systems to be put in place for the collection of data to cover indicators of social responsibility. Reaching here, of course, is tremendously fulfilling though!

We are committed to do this excercise on a regular basis, measuring how we fare based on standards that we set for ourselves!

:: Read the full report here


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