Monday, October 19, 2015

MEET us at WTM 2015 | 02 - 05 Nov 2015

Elders @ Patan Durbar Square #stillSmiling pic: Rocky Prajapati
As we go into World Travel Market 2015, we are just beyond the six month mark of the EarthQuake that changed the course of Nepal’s history altogether.

The flurry of media activity in Nepal post quake unfortunately only focussed on the destruction, not realising that only a certain portion of the country was affected, and very little was actually destroyed. The effect on the backbone of the economy, tourism was devastating.

Pic: Rocky Prajapati
At socialtours, we have worked through rescue, relief, recovery and since just under a month since the earthquake, have been working hard on reviving Tourism, through various campaigns and programs. Our I AM IN NEPAL NOW campaign viralled online and caught even the attention of international media.

For the past months, we have developed a range of limited edition products, showcasing the strength and resilience of Nepal, in earthquake recovery. We feel that this will greatly enhance your product arsenal for Nepal, giving your travellers a first hand look at how strong and skilled we are, and how Nepal is tuned to react to something like this. This is not Disaster Tourism, we are not showcasing disaster, but we are showcasing the pride and energy that exists in Nepal now. 

Please take a look at our special edition catalog "IN NEPAL NOW" that can be downloaded via this link.

Raj Gyawali (@KingGyawali on twitter), who has been instrumental in development of these packages and who plays a key role in the Tourism Recovery Campaign in Nepal, will be best placed to inform you more about how Nepal is responding and what these packages entail.

Raj will be available at WTM all days and will be delighted to meet up, and discuss possibilities, or even just to have a quick catch up on the situation in Nepal.

Contact him direct at to set an appointment or pick a date and time at the online appointment slots on Google Calendar here


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In Nepal NOW | Recovery Tours & Short Breaks

Photo courtesy Rocky Prajapati
Post quake, we have been working hard at developing new limited edition experiences to highlight Nepal’s strength and resilience in recovery, and also focus more on income rather than aid. Check out our hand-picked selection of experiences in Kathmandu and one from Pokhara here. Book your spot for one off trips, or combine them to make it into a short break of an inspirational journey of discovery.

All these trips can be booked pretty much last minute but some are popular and all have limited capacity. Most can be conducted daily. 

Download the PDF brochure here -…‪#‎nepalNow‬ ‪#‎stillSmiling‬

Post Quake, we have been working hard at developing new limited edition experiences to highlight Nepal’s strength and...

Posted by Socialtours on Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rebuilding Heritage in #nepalNOW | Shantipur Temple, Soyambhunath

The Shantipur temple in Soyambhunath has damages on the outside wall and the inside wall and is now closed for worship, though devotees still worship the door outside - there is no stopping that.

I attended a small meeting at Soyambhunath in the morning, and was pleasantly surprised that it was teeming with devotees (supposedly, three days after the August Full Moon, devotees from Bhaktapur have to come to Soyambhunath). I never knew that, and it always surprises me how many times I feel like a tourist in my own country, every time I come in contact with a new tradition from the over 100 ethnic groups we have.

The first thing that struck me was how young the group in the meeting was - and how diverse. Some were the priests family, some were the custodians of that space, the youth club, the sponsors etc. The discussion was revolving around traditions - with the earthquake and the recovery, whether to modify the traditions or find ways to preserve. Fascinating debates that happens in Nepal now.

So here is the story. The main sanctum sanctorum of Shantipur can only be opened by the priests, and no other person is ever allowed to enter. So no one really knows what is in there, even today, except this young guy sitting around the drinking tea (who I secretly hoped would take me aside and tell me, but it was not to be) who comes from the priest clan, and whose grandfather, now 92, is still head priest of this temple. It is said that this slightly bent man with a pacemaker suddenly walks straight when inside this deepest part of the temple. The devotees can only come to the second level, just outside, and of course around the temple too.

The decision. We cannot modify tradition. Tradition and belief systems are a combination of known and unknown, and if you make the unknown known, we destroy ancient beliefs and this is the beginning of the end. If there is way to keep the mystery there, we will preserve tradition. Everyone is agreed on that!

Hence an interesting solution for recovery comes up and is agreed upon. Wood panel walls will be constructed to keep the accessible area separate from the inaccessible. A walled area will be outside the temple, and there will be walls to separate the sanctum sanctorum from the outside too… the priest clan will go inside and work there on their own, doing the restoration and recovery of what is their responsibility, the outside can be done by other people. However, all of them have to be raised from the ground up together to keep the building stable and earthquake resistant.

The most fascinating thing in this whole discussion, I think, is that there is no questions of architects, painters, masons, technique. We know that already - this has been preserved through the ages. The discussion on funds is casual - the Indians, the Thai, the government have all promised something, but no one goes to them… when they are ready to fund, they have to come to these committees who hold the keys to each structure. The agreement - let them figure it out. When they are ready, they will come to us!

Shantipur Temple, Soyambhunath, Kathmandu
Later, someone laughs about how lucky we are that the earthquake happened after 86 years of the last one. If it was after a 100 years, everyone who had experience in restoration of these structures would be already dead! That way, Nepal is lucky - this cycle of 80 odd years of earthquakes preserves ancient traditional skills - as the ARTISANS rise again, every time disaster strikes.

We leave after drinking some really, I mean really sweet tea, and feeling a deep sense of pride - in our own ability to restore our heritage.

Check out the RISE of the ARTISAN - a trip focussed on exactly this - the artisan who rebuilds structures that have fallen.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Recovering from the quake

Photo by: Rocky Prajapati
Every century, with a cycle of around 80 years, a devastating earthquake shakes up the two continental plates below Nepal, jolting all life above it. With each repetition, buildings collapse, lives are lost, and normalcy turns upside down for a while.

Yet every time it happens, the country comes together, gets stronger, and works harder to build back. And build back it does. Better, stronger and more resilient. This has been proven time and again.

The two major earthquakes of 25th April and 12th May caused widespread damage in some districts in Nepal, no doubts about that. That was the earthquake doing its thing.

The reaction of the people, considered to be one of the best crisis managers in the world, was extraordinary. Before the government or international aid could kick in, the youth, business-people, monks, nuns, schools, colleges all started to work in relief, and before anything had even arrived in Nepal in terms of aid, had conducted an astounding amount of relief runs, mobilising funds and resources and moving tons upon tons of relief into areas that needed it.

In the far flung villages, the youth had dug up bodies, cremated them, and had started on emergency shelters within a few days already, conditioned by centuries of living in isolated small valleys and knowing how to be self-sufficient.

This strength and resilience is something worth experiencing, the nature of this incredible mix of over 100 ethnic groups living in this stretch of land that is Nepal, nestled between giants of China and India, never colonised and never conquered.

In tourism, the reaction was similar. First priority was getting everyone home safe, so rescue missions were organised to get stranded travellers out of the way. After that, companies started looking after their own - staff, guides, porters etc who needed help. After that the industry rallied together to start a recovery process, running as we write and which has developed into a very unique industry led initiative thats taking the lead in turning the tourism of this country for the better. An understanding of this process and the participation in it, can change ones understanding of how an industry should react in disasters of this magnitude.

At socialtours, we are working hard on several aspects of the recovery process

  1. Leading an industry initiative to recover tourism through engaging in designing of mitigating strategies and actions to back it up. A big positive results of this has become the new recovery website endorsed by the government . We urge all partners to also endorse this, as this is beneficial for the one voice that is required to drive customers to buy trips again. 
  2. Developing post quake recovery products that are experiences that encompass what we have described above. Most of our trips have already become relevant in the recovery process, as travellers can now meet survivors, relief workers and real champions in order to understand how a country responds to something like this. This is a strong promise and in Nepal NOW easy to deliver. We ourselves are survivors and socialtours alone has organised and is implementing over 50,000 USD worth of relief works and we continue to do so since day one. 
  3. Initiating confidence building campaigns like the I AM IN NEPAL NOW and I AM GOING TO NEPAL campaigns that are viralling on social media. 
  4. Finding ways to make the travellers in this two year window feel even more welcome, sometimes things as little as finding out which room is allocated and leaving a nice note for them.  

Together in Tourism!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why coming to Nepal NOW would be the best thing you ever did!

pic: Urban Adventures | the Boudhanath Rebuild

The human race is amazing - its capacity to fight hard times, to be resilient, strong, and yet still find energy to bring out the act of pure humanity is absolutely inspirational. After the earthquake, Nepal has changed tremendously. Yes, we have houses down, grieving families and an economy that is down, but the people and their spirit are stronger than ever. We have regained our pride in ourselves, in our strength, in our resilience, in the skill we have to build back, and build it back better.

The youth came out in force and even before the first aid plane had landed in Nepal, they had mobilised hundreds of tons of relief into the needed areas, and are still continuing to do so. In the mountains, the youth dug roads, set up supply lines, made shelters and protected communities.

The police have never been on a bigger high. Mobilised within minutes of the quake, they dug out bodies, protected supplies, made huge missions on dangerous landslide prone territory, and were later even performing on the streets providing music therapy, seen here in a video that went viral on facebook.

SuperHeroes Nepal Police | Gangnam style cover - for Therapy
RECOVERY UPDATE | Real SuperheroesThe Nepal Police... They react fast to the earthquake, rescue people, protect supplies, and then provide music therapy. Was a bit emotional with pride and respect.#WeAreNepali - never conquered, never colonised - an earthquake will not beat us!
Posted by Raj Gyawali on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The tourism industry, which took a huge huge hit, immediately started mobilising and for the first time ever, started even meeting up together and forming joint strategies and actions and aligning with all players to bring back tourism to its feet again. Overnight, the designed online viral campaigns like the "I AM IN NEPAL NOW" and the currently viraling "I AM GOING TO NEPAL" to regain customer confidence. This is huge - it rarely happens, but it did and it continues and this will make the industry stronger and better. No doubts about that!

Overnight, skilled persons got together to save objects of heritage when monuments fell, turned back bulldozers to break apart the monument brick by brick to preserve each piece for the rebuild, and at World Heritage Site locations like Boudhanath, started the rebuild, without any aid money, less than a forth-night since the quake hit, on pure faith! That, in todays world, is pure gold!

The stories continue, on and on! We have changed, and for the better!

This is probably no different than anywhere on earth. At times of urgent need, humans step up the game, and synergise the necessary change that is required to uplift themselves - both in spirit, economically, or what have you!

So here is the reason why you should come visit. One can only witness this strength - this capacity to change the game, this constant shift brought about by synergies, these improvements in quality - in places where an event of this proportion has happened. And for now, this is where we are, in Nepal.

You do not get many chances to experience this spirit. Its rare, and it will not last for very long. If you do not come now, you will miss it - this opportunity to again be proud of being human.

Of course, the mountains and the biodiversity that make Nepal one of the places to visit in your lifetime is intact. The draw is still there!

And of course we are Nepali - we are #stillSmiling and still one of the friendliest people in the planet. Only we have got stronger!

Come witness the recovery of Nepal. It will inspire you and change you forever!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ropain: The rice planting festival 2015

Pic courtesy -

Carrying on with the tradition of celebrating ROPAIN as in yesteryears, socialtours organized a group of expatriates and tourist to travel to the southern ridge of the Kathmandu Valley to indulge in one of Nepal’s most colorful and exuberant festivals. After the earthquake of April 25th this was one of the major events to take place.

On 27th June, 2015, the journey towards the paddy fields began at 8 am and we reached the Bajrabarahi temple after an hour of driving through earthquake damaged village houses and well manicured terraced fields. A brief stop at the temple and the team was on its way to the fields. After a quick change of clothes the planting began in earnest. Fifteen minutes of rice planting then gave way to over three hours of fun and frolic in the mud. Mud wrestling, tug of war and mud racing then over took rice planting.

In between local rice beer, rice wine, Newar style sautéed buffalo meat and spicy potato was served. This served as an energizer for the mayhem in the mud to continue for another two hours. After another hour in the fields mingling with the local farming community and giving continuity to on the spot invented games, it was time to relish a typical village Newar lunch. After shower and change of clothes under the open sky an eight course Newar lunch was laid out. Food was as varied as from beaten rice, chicken, bamboo shoot to your regular potato curry. 3 pm and we were pulling our tired bodies into the bus for the ride back home.

This year the crowd was smaller than in previous years due to the earthquake, but let me assure the fun wasn’t. It was an occasion that everyone relished and spoke highly of. It was also a measure of how far we had come after the earthquake in terms of getting our lives back to normal. socialtours has come back stronger and better after April 25th and we promise you a bigger and more eventful ROPAIN 2016.

All photos sourced from

Thursday, June 25, 2015

10 Things You Probably did not know about Nepal

By now you know that Nepal was hit by quake in April 2015, is in ASIA and between India & China. But did you know these cool things about Nepal? Here are just 10 of them.

1. We perfected the mo:mo | #stillTasty

This snack probably came from South China, via Tibet, and when it hit Nepal, it hit our crazy tastebuds, and we started the experimentation with fillings, spices & sauces. The result. A perfect mo:mo (do not ask why we write it that way!

2. The Tharu in the south are immune to Malaria | #stillMysterious

A long time ago, the Tharu ran away from their native Thar Desert because of the invasion of the Moghuls. They established their bases in the then Malaria ridden jungles of south Nepal. No one knows why they are resistant.

3. Nepali Artisans can recreate anything traditional | #stillArtistic

Art is a tradition that falls under a lineage in Nepal. Hence we have artists who can recreate almost any ancient heritage. 

4. Polyandry still exists in remote communities in the West of Nepal | #stillKinky

Yup. It does. Women, soak it in. In remote mountain areas of the West of Nepal, some families still practice polyandry. Kinky as hell, but it seems to work for them!

5. We can grow everything in this country, from pineapples and banana all the way to nothing in a 250 kms breadth | #stillFertile

This is so amazing. Nepal has from sub-tropic to alpine regions, so can achieve amazingly diverse crops.

6. We speak over 100 different languages and dialects in this country | #stillDiverse

It does get a bit crazy. We can be surprised by our own people on a daily basis. Also it means we can have an endless potential for domestic tourism.

7. We have one of the highest biodiversity densities in the world | #stillRich

This is quite a surprise but it must have to do with our steepness, from 70m to the top of the world in just 250 meters breadth.

8. A fungus that grows out of a dead caterpillars stomach is one of the most expensive commodities coming from the alpine regions of Nepal - Yarsa Gumba (or cordyceps) is used in virility drinks in China and sells for millions | #stillVirile

Yup. No wonder then that our population is over 27 million. 

9. Nepal was never conquered or colonised | #stillInvincible

This is something that every Nepali is ultimately proud of. We fought the British tooth and nail (actually with stones and knives) but they just gave up, after fighting Malaria in the plains and the skillful agile Nepali in the mid-hills.

10. Nepal was bloody well formed because of this quake. We own it | #stillFunny

This is what made us no doubts. If the plates did not exist, we would not be here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Psychological preparation for disaster

Today, at socialtours, we had a short session with one of our senior city guide Sarita Shrestha regarding the human psychology during and after the natural disaster.

The session started with the sharing of experiences related to the earthquake that hit Nepal on 25th April 2015 with the magnitude of 7.8RS. Everyone had their own stories about where they were, how they felt, what was their immediate response, what was the lasting impact and so on.

We realized that there was something common in the stories we shared. We all were in the state of high alert during the quake and were trying hard to find a safe place for oneself. This taught us the fact that the greatest threat of human being is the threat of life; it makes us ready to do anything... and that means anything.

Then, we evaluated the impact of disaster in our mental health. We found that most of us still have not recovered from the fear. This session, however, helped us to realize that it's normal for anyone to go through such trauma, everyone will get back to their normal life; the pace of recovery depends the personal strength.

On the whole, the session was quite fruitful.  

Socialtours would like to thank Sarita for her time and effort.

Press Release | Nepal is building-back-better for autumn 2015 tourist arrivals


Kathmandu, 15 June 2015 - Major reconstruction work and in-depth assessments are underway in Nepal to build-back-better and get the Himalayan nation ready for the upcoming tourist season.

The two earthquakes that shook parts of Nepal on 25 April and 12 May 2015 have brought damage to 14 of the 75 districts of the country, and even though the devastation is extensive in some regions, many areas remain relatively unscathed and are fit for tourists to visit in autumn 2015.
“Our nation is working hard to make Nepal a safer place,” says the founder director of socialtours - Raj, who has been in the industry for more than a decade. “The tourist district Thamel has been relatively unaffected. Damaged hotels are getting a full structural assessment and are being restored to an even better condition than before.” Under the assessment project, engineers have marked safe buildings with a green sticker and started demolishing those deemed unsafe in and around the Kathmandu Valley.
Damaged sites, such as the historic Kathmandu Durbar Square, have partly been reconstructed and opened for tourists on 15 June. The main roads and air transport links are operational and life is getting back to normal in many areas. “Nepal is a wonderful country and one of the best qualities of the Nepali people is their hospitality. They are very resilient and are working hard to get their country back on the international tourism agenda,” says Katja Staartjes, a Dutch mountaineer and a Goodwill Ambassadors to aid tourism, emphasising the need for this source of income to return to the country.
Many trekking areas have seen little damage and, if the monsoon rains do not trigger landslides in these areas, trekking will be as safe as it was before the quake. “Apart from Langtang, Rolwaling and Manaslu, we do not see much of a problem with other trails, such as the Everest Base Camp Trek,” says Swiss geologist Erwin Scheibert, who is assessing the routes in the affected areas for the Local Road Improvement Programme (LRIP) in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Other places further in the west, such as the popular wildlife parks Chitwan and Bardia, the lakeside town of Pokhara and the much-visited Annapurna trekking region have also escaped widespread damage, and are ready for visitors to showcase their abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini, did not suffer damage and is thankfully all set to welcome visitors back to its sacred soil.
Tourism is a big contributor to the Gross Domestic Product of the Himalayan nation, directly supporting almost 500,000 jobs in 2014. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) this figure was due to rise to almost 700,000 in the coming ten years. “With tourists not coming to Nepal even more people will be forced to leave the country, which will be devastating for the future of our country,” Gyawali continues.
The Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS) says that around 2.2 million Nepalis, which constitutes about 10 per cent of the population, have opted to leave the country to work abroad in order to provide the necessary means to feed their families.
For more information, please contact - 
- or visit

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Great Quake 2015 | our response to it

Raj @ Yellow House sourcing supplies
for Sindupalchowk | Day 5
The great quake hit us badly, with first news coming that Naresh (our accounts colleague) losing his mother and sister when the house collapsed, and that we lost Paul in a landslide near Ghopte in the Langtang Region.

While parts of the team scrambled to get evacuations organised and set up emergency communications, a part of socialtours was already working in emergency rescue, which quite quickly turned into relief distribution, and has now stabilised into reconstruction & recovery.

We quickly mobilised our charity Karma Foundation, set it up ready to receive supplies - over 3000 tarps, over 100 filters, and over 1000 household packages of rice, lentils, salt... and over 60 solar lamps and chargers - to just name a few, and set it ready for distribution. We distributed it all, and are now working on quality distributions.

We also quickly helped some of the staff recovery - Binita from Karma Coffee had a village in Nuwakot badly hit - and we immediately sent supplies there. Later we organised and sent supplies to Ashmita's village too in Sindupalchowk. Along with Namaste Nepal, we also went quickly into the field in Sindupalchowk where we have a long standing partnership, and started relief and recovery efforts.

Friends and well-wishers from all around the world also quickly started raising funds, of which we have close to 15,000 USD now, and are making plans for disbursement, and recovery strategies that we will fund. The reports will come out on the Karma Foundation website

We had also by this time mobilised a small team to start calling everyone we knew and were related to in the industry, to find out how they were and assess the damage, and asking them how we could help. We were relieved to find that only a few bad cases were there, though almost everyone had lost homes, if they were in the affected area.

EarthQuake & Aftershocks | focussed on a limited area in Nepal

We then initiated a tourism recovery plan - got together like minded professionals in the industry and started recovery strategies - We announced we are back in business, have started assessing the assets that we have, keeping our website uptodate with latest information, and talking to all our agents to keep them informed and work together.

Read about whats happening on this front on this facebook group here

This is where we are! We recognise that this is a unique situation and requires creative unique responses, and we really appreciate all support we have received - monetary, moral and technical.

So far, we are analysing what hits we will have to take this year as a business. Immediate cancellations have been huge to be frank, but we also have very encouraging stories, with group reaffirming their conviction to come to Nepal, as thats the best recovery strategy.

We are committed to the safety of our clients and our assets, and have made a strong commitement to be honest in our communications, as that is the best strategy we have, and which is in line with our principles.

We are fully working and are keeping uptodate information on whats happening in the country. Talk to us, we are interested to hear your concerns regarding travel to Nepal, and will ensure that you get the most accurate and reliable information to help make travel decisions.

socialtours team | open for business since day 4

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

10 reasons why you should meet #socialtours at #ITB 2015

ITB a big place and there are so many meetings to choose from - too many operators and too many promises. Here are some reasons why you should choose to talk to socialtours at ITB. Hall 4.1/214, specially when it comes to discussion on NEPAL, BHUTAN, INDIA and TIBET!

New Products: socialtours has the largest range of new products in Nepal - most of it self developed - ranging from half day bike rides and cooking courses to day tours, over-nighters and multi-day experiences.

Offbeat specialist: Most of socialtours trekking products are offbeat and to places not many agents will know - try us, we can prove it to you! Try Ruby Valley, Far West Nepal, Chepang Hill Trail etc.

Unique experience: socialtours is not interested in competing with other trekking agents or tour operators in Nepal. We have our own product range and keep developing new ones, where we do not need to compete.

High Value: socialtours is a good choice for a partner for extensions to your already existing trips - our extensions can highlight your trip. In fact, that is what these extensions are meant to do.

Market knowledge: socialtours understands your needs and the needs of the changing market profile. We come out to the market often enough to understand that. We visit both ITB and WTM, mostly to understand the market

Visitors satisfaction: socialtours consistently gets the best reviews and customer satisfaction levels are excellent. We deliver.

Qualified team: socialtours constantly trains manpower, creating a highly trained and motivated team, which means its easier to work with us.

Effective communication: socialtours has a policy to be lightning fast in communication, making work efficient and effective.

Professional & personal: We specialise in a professional but personal service, giving each traveler the attention to detail that their dream trip deserves throughout their holiday.

Industry leader: socialtours is a leader in responsible tourism practice in Nepal. Additionally, socialtours is a TravelLife Partner, signatories of THE CODE, six time nominees for the Responsible Tourism Awards in the UK and has mentions in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, National Geographic Adventure a UNWTO publication on sustainable businesses.

Who you will meet?

Raj Gyawali founded socialtours and the concept and principles behind it in 2012, and has since constantly been working about two years ahead of what the organisation does - constantly strategising and leading the ethos into the future. He also works nationally and internationally as a consultant on sustainable tourism practice and destination planning and management, and has been part of a team of consultants designing the 10 year strategic tourism plan for Nepal. He is also a trainer of guides and tour operators in the region. He is an avid cyclist and also leads treks and trips. He has extensive knowledge of travel in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India

Contact: | 0043 66473 533483 | 


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