Monday, February 28, 2011

Microfunding for Tourism: Inspirational story!

NEPAL FAR WEST: A Case where microfunding is being used to develop Tourism in Far West Nepal

Kailali Chamber of Commerce and Industry, award winning chamber in Nepal, won because of their innovative approaches towards tourism promotion in this far west district of Nepal, ravaged by about two decades of insurgency, but zealous to bounce back.

The Far West house the remotest districts in Nepal, and have over the years been deprived of development and attention. They get under 20000 visitors a year, most of them pilgrims and aid workers. Reason, Nepal’s big four – Everest, Annapurna, Langtang and Chitwan take most of the visitors. Just across the border from these districts, in the Indian state of Uttarkhand, over 9 million visitors come every year, almost 80 percent of them Indian pilgrims.

In one inspired move in 2008, the Kailali Chamber of Commerce and Industry, decided to take a lead. They started a campaign called Mission One Paisa (one paisa being the equivalent of less than 1 cent), whereby they rallied all industries, and salaried employees in the district to contribute towards a Tourism Fund to make these districts known to the world. The campaign started with a pledge of 25 paise per notebook sold by a printing house. Within a few months, this house had put Rs. 10,000 into the fund, which started a wave in the district, bringing in Hotels (who put Rs. 50 for each booking), hospital workers giving Rs. 10 per month from their salaries, Doctors giving 50p per prescription written, and other people also joined in including the public, bus ticketing, flour mills, rice mills etc, bringing in a whopping 1 Million Rs into the tourism fund.

Not satisfied with this, the Chamber conducted consumer fairs and added a Corporate Tax to companied to total the fund to over 4 Million Rs, in early 2009. This done, they invited professional photographers and got them to tour the districts, resulting in the publication of 26 different designs of posters, 3 coffee table books and postcards. These were then publicized using the same money in cities such as Kathmandu. Innovation was central. They even got the students in the district write to people they knew outside but ensured that the District postcards were sent. They printed scratch proof posters and put them in every long distance bus out of the district, so the message can be spread.

They are not stopping at this. They want to reach into the international scene with this “lets make Far West Reknown” drive.

Not the end! They then realized that the airport not being hardtopped could be a problem. Another microfunding campaign, this time including even people like rickshaw pullers upto industrialists led to people putting money as less as Rs. 2 to personal donations of Rs. 55,000, bringing in Rs. 6.1 Million, which was handed over to the government to match.
Eventually the hardtopping of the runaway commenced, and currently Dhangadhi has the second longest runaway in Nepal. They are applying for the status of the airport to be made international.

This is one of the few examples of how effective a Private Public Partnership can be.

For this effort, the Chamber was awarded Best Chamber in Nepal.

At the moment, this campaign has resulted in renewed interest in the Far west and there are trainings going on to develop the industry, including Destination Management, Branding and Tour Operator trainings… the plan is to bring these products to OTM in Calcutta in July 2011 and to SATTE in February 2012.

Many destinations can learn from this approach to development, and involving the whole community in tourism!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We want to hear inspiring stories from Destinations!

Elephant Grass mats earn locals income in Chitwan, Nepal, preserving their traditional skills. photo: Fredrik Pettersen

Let the world know what you’ve been up to in your local destination.

Share your inspirational story about the destination you work in and have the opportunity to present at ITB Responsible Tourism Networking in Berlin. This is your chance to WOW industry associates and potential buyers with real life examples of how responsible tourism is powering positive change in your destination.
The Responsible Tourism Networking Event at ITB Berlin has grown substantially from its humble beginnings in a London pub. Four years on, this fringe event is now an official partner for ITB Berlin. Uniting dedicated initiatives around the world to propel the Responsible Tourism movement forward.

This year the Responsible Tourism Networking organisers from pocketvillage, Tripbod, The Green Circuit, The Blue Yonder, Vision and ITB Berlin are inviting inspirational stories direct from destinations. Story submissions are open to anyone with an amazing tale to tell. Successful selections will be based on the stories power to inspire responsible tourism in respective destinations.

Six successful entries will be selected to present their five minute story of local inspiration to kick off this years Responsible Tourism Networking Event at ITB Berlin on the 11th of March 2011 at 4:30 pm. In addition to presenting your story at the world’s leading travel trade show, selected applicants will be featured on the soon to be launched pocketvillage; an intuitive search engine to find and enjoy exceptional travel experiences.

Entries are requested to email their 5 minute stories (or 1 A4 page) to: by the 1st of March 2011. Successful applicants will be notified by email by the 5th of March 2011. Please mention the following information at the beginning of your story: Your Name, Email, Organisation and Destination.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Learnings in Responsible Tourism; The French ATR Certification

So, the French Tourism Industry is making a mark in the Responsible Tourism with the ATR (Actors in Responsible Tourism - in French in another order) Certification, with 13 companies already certified and some others along the way. Marie Laure, who works for Cavalier Al Monde, and specifically works with the certification, was speaking at a small gathering in Kathmandu (at Bhojan Griha, an old Rana Palace restored and used as a theme restaurant having a very low carbon FOODprint), and over a delicious Nepali snack and some ginger tea
Was interesting to hear that over 88% of the French travelers were interested in Responsible Tourism and that this is a growing trend in France. Even though this is a still a very niche market, a movement is underway, and ATR is carving a path of quite a high standard, asking operators to report every year, and also demonstrate improvement each year. The certification also mandates that operators work with their suppliers in partnerships and also work towards improvement of responsible tourism practices at the supplier level.
There was also an interesting presentation by Pramod Khakurel (Mandap Travels, Kathmandu) who shared his experiences of bringing Fair Trade and Fair Tourism together and how he saw this as one of the avenues of approaching the market for Responsible Tourism.
Perhaps what was most interesting was the debate that happened after these presentations on the complications and implications of such a certification process, and how these could be applied in Nepal. Agreed that Nepal has to move and not wait to be kicked in the backside by the industry worldwide, but how was the big issue. Options that were floated
1. Work alongside a Certification Insitute worldwide and get a Nepali Chapter started and confirm to it
2. Get a Nepali Certification established, based on local expertise and geared to local standards
3. Keep it loose and set Nepali standards, and then work alongside an international label/certification
Then there was the fourth alternative, as described by Jenefer Bobbin (who currently works at socialtours, but is also working on her own Responsible Tourism Verification Scheme), where one works on a self verification of practices, then gets it externally checked. This is cheap, and flexible enough to fit Nepali myriad levels of companies.
At the end of the day, the participants agreed to agree, and take this forward, at one level or the other, in the coming days.
Thanks to
1. Subecchya Basnet and Bharat Basnet, Explore Nepal Group for sponsoring the event
2. Pramod Khakurel and Marie Laure
3. Jenefer Bobbin
Of course, thanks to those who attended too - namely - Ester Kruk (ICIMOD), Steven Dawa Sherpa (Asian Trekking), William Ma (Asian Encounters), Marcus Cotton (Tiger Mountain), Birgit Lienhart-Gyawali (Karma Foundation), Chhewang Lama (Responsible Treks) and Suomen Latu (NETIF)

Bhojan Griha, Kathmandu

Just received an email from the students who attended the meeting. I did not edit it.

"First of all, we will like to thanks to the PATA Group for inviting us in seminar. From the program, we learn a lot of things about tourism and the progress, Program done by them. But one thing that the place was selected for the program was so conjusted and full of crowd. So we didn't hear sound of some speakers that what they said or what their done for the tourism. We feel so proud to be a student of tourism when we heard their work and their interest to the tourism. These are changing tourism into socio and responsible which was best point we like.
At last we wish you all best for your future plans for the tourism industry. If ever need any kind of help form us, we will step forward to help you. "

Name of the students
Sujita Adhikari
Sanjeev Adhikari
Kul Singh Thapa
Tara Poudel
Sophiya Gurung
Keshav Chandra Gurung
Raj Kumar Gurung
Chitiz Rana
Naina Ghale

Isn't that what is all about? I think the program might have been a success! Yay!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inspiring the Next Generation - The RT Fringe Meet in Pokhara

09th Feb 2010

The theme was to inspire the next generation and also to network amongst players in the industry, and what a success that was. About 30 people sat in a rather cramped corner of the Moondance Restaurant & Bar (which helped eventually, or we would not have heard each other at all - over the background noise of other customers, music, and a generator).

The 10 students from Nepal Tourism and Hospitality Management College, Pokhara were quickly asked to change their seating and intersperse with the industry people who came in, and that was an immediate hit. A buzz of conversation burst into life and Marcus and Raj were even discussing whether the inspiring words was required at all.

Moderated by Marcus Cotton, organisers of this event and from Tiger Mountain, Nepal, the group eventually heard a few words from:

Andrew Jones, Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong, on how his vision led him to start digging deeper into the responsibility of resorts to the community, and the wonderful work that they are doing now.

Lucky Chhetri, 3 Sisters Adventures, Nepal, on how her multiple award winning organisation has gone from strength to strength, from a vision of empowerment of women in the tourism industry.

Jenefer Bobbin, RT Verification consultant, on how the idea came of the verification scheme for tourism enterprises and how it works and where it is now.

Raj Basu, Help Tourism, on how his organisation went from one area of responsibility towards society to another, moving from using tourism for environment conservation to heritage conservation to now Tourism for Peace.

Ian Hall, Wild Asia Awards, on how his love of architecture and nature, led him into working in tourism and responsibility, one of the fields of work where something like this is possible, and how happy he was to see students and get a chance to meet with the future.

Later Raj Gyawali, socialtours, summed the presentations by mentioning how the different inspirational words proved the diversity of the field of responsibility in tourism, and how deep it can go. He also mentioned how his organisation brings all this together in its marketing of responsible tourism products and also how it attempts to dig deeper into the issues of responsibility, taking it to the office and the individuals in the workplace.

He went on to explained a bit about the history of these Fringe events, started in London by Sally ( and Gopi (The Blue Yonder) and how it now takes place in London, Berlin, Delhi, Singapore and since the last two years in Nepal.

There was an attempt made to bring Ron Mader, into the conversation using the internet and Skype, but the technology was drowned in the buzz in the restaurant. Ron did briefly come online to see the event.

The networking continued for a while after this, buzzing with conversation, before winding off.

Attended by:-

The students from Nepal Tourism and Hospitality Management College
Andrew Jones, Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong
Sophie, Production Tours and Travels, USA
Lucky Chhetri, 3 Sister Adventure, Nepal
Jenefer Bobbin, socialtours, Nepal
Travis Rabenberg, Trekking with Trav, USA
William Ma, Asian Encounters. Nepal
Craig, Kangaroo Travels, Brazil
Ian Hall, Wild Asia, Malaysia
Raj Basu, Help Tourism, India
Bharat Basnet, Explore Nepal
Subekshya Basnet, Explore Nepal
Fiona Marshall, KE Adventure Travel
Hannah, Explore, UK
Mircea Anitas, France
Jayne Low, Jet Airways, Singapore
Angela Gray, East West, Singapore
Markus, Germany
Sabin Shrestha, Tiger Mountain
Rajendra Shrestha, Tiger Mountain

The event was organised by Marcus Cotton, Tiger Mountain, Nepal and conceptualised by Raj Gyawali, socialtours, Nepal


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