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
ADDENDUM:

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!

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