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!


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