Nepal is this year’s “must-visit” destination
I always think Nepal has unique appeal that no other destination in South Asia has. Everyone who travels to Nepal wants to go back and most do – myself included. At its most obvious, Mount Everest draws adventurers and nature lovers and Kathmandu alone offers seven UNESCO world heritage sites, more than any other city in the world. But at its heart, Nepal’s appeal lies in its people. Nepalese people are the most generous and fun loving people on the planet. I often hear that the group in our tours is taken aback by locals whose hospitality is absolutely incredible despite them having so little in their life. Their friendly nature, combined with breathtaking landscapes and a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist culture quite often capture the minds and hearts of the people on our tours.
Nepal relies on tourism for 7.5% of it’s GDP but tourism comes with its own challenges. On my last trip to Nepal I was shocked to hear that plastic bottles – thrown mostly by trekkers when they finish with them – have polluted the environment surrounding the Everest trail. While we saw the mountains with less snow and ice due to the warming climate. Researchers have even indicated that eventually glacier mass loss will affect popular trekking trails as they become unpassable.
In the past, tourists injected the economy with their dollars and supported local enterprises that improve locals’ livelihoods. It shows that tourists do have the power of creating change when they travel to Nepal. Yet the statistics show that only $5 out of every $100 is spent in the local community.
There is not much you can do as a traveler to combat warming climate, but human pollution can be avoided by being respectful and aware of how your actions affect the environment and its people. As tourists, we also have an obligation to understand where our money is being spent and take responsibility as travelers to contribute to the local economy.
Last year, the UN announced the year of sustainable tourism for development. With the numbers of travelers rapidly increasing from 1 billion in 2012 to 1.8 billion in 2020, we have a huge opportunity to make tourism a force for good.
So now, more than ever, is a perfect time to start thinking about how traveling can benefit the place and its people.
At Seven Women, a charity I founded 11 years ago, we have been able to employ over 50 women through travelers buying both our fair trade products and booking in for local cooking classes. This trains women in manufacturing and hospitality skills.
Hands On Development tours are a cultural immersion program able to bring travelers on an incredible journey that will increase awareness of the local culture and prevalent issues in Nepal by giving the participants lived experience visiting different communities and organisations. A Hands On Development’s 10 day cultural immersion program typically include a trip to the ancient village of Bhaktapur to meet with local artisans, a visit to the farming village of Sudal that is surrounded by the stunning views of Himalayas, and to the Seven Women Centre where travelers will be able to gain and share their skills with disadvantaged Nepalese women who are part of the Seven Women family. The structure of the program ensures travelers can contribute to training of marginalised women in the tourism industry, hospitality skills and teaching whilst gaining a wealth of knowledge and an unforgettable experience.
The era of mass travel is over. Today, traveling means not only a chance to connect with locals and get to know different places through their perspectives. It is about getting a deeper sense of a place, being respectful and giving back. It is also about celebrating their local cultures and helping them preserve their legacy.
Since the 2015 earthquake, most affected areas have been reopened and the local communities rely on the tourists’ dollars more than ever before. It’s no question that there is no better time to go, experience local Nepal and ensure the communities benefit from travelers.