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.


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