Nepal’s natural beauty attracts thousands of tourists every year and this non-profit company is making sure that its beauty stays preserved.
--BY ANUTARA SHAKYA
The British daily newspaper The Guardian in April announced Nepal among the top destinations in the world to go in 2017. This news came as a boon to the tourism sector that had been struggling to get back on its feet ever since the devastating earthquake of 2015. As one of the major sectors of income for the country, tourism is given great priority by the government.
In fact, in 2016, the country saw more than 700,000 tourists entering the country and the numbers are expected to rise in 2017. But with more people visiting Nepal, there comes an equal burden on the environmental side with an increase in the nation’s carbon footprint and pollution. That is why Deep Prakash Ayadi, CEO of Nepal Sustainable Travel (NST) is seeking to direct the tourism sector businesses towards the practices of sustainable tourism.
NST came into existence in June 2016 as a non-profit company seeking to help tourism related businesses to adopt methods for sustainable tourism. Whether it is hotels, restaurants, transportation or tour guides, each has a role to play in making tourism in Nepal sustainable for the future.
As a student of environmental science, Ayadi came up with the idea of establishing NST after being engaged with various non-profit organisations working for the environment and having travelled to places such as Humla, the Annapurna region, Upper Mustang and Jumla.
“It is a good sign that the tourism sector is flourishing in Nepal. But at the same time, we are ignoring so many things that come with it such as increasing pollution and environmental damage to the destinations. For instance, piles of garbage can be found in the Everest region and the excessive cutting of trees for firewood has damaged the ecosystem of many forest regions across the country,” says Ayadi.
“Tourism is good business but if we do not approach it in a sustainable way, it will have a very negative impact in future.” he adds.
His view is that for a country like Nepal that relies heavily on the tourism sector as a source of foreign currency, adopting sustainable practices in tourism plays a crucial part in assuring that it generates maximum income for years to come.
How NST works
As a non-profit company, NST receives grants and funding from other organisations for its operations. The company is composed of a team of five individuals including Deep Prakash Ayadi, Pratik Adhikari for Marketing, Suman Subedhi who looks after Finance and Administration and Laxmi Bhatta and Gyanu Maskey as the Project Developers. It provides membership to other private companies in the tourism business and helps them find ways to become sustainable.
The membership is divided into three categories, Executive, Associate and Affiliate. Executive membership is for the big players in business such as hotels and resorts, the Associate membership for growing companies and Affiliate membership for startups and community-based local businesses. NST provides training and marketing facilities to the businesses according to their membership level. Currently, NST has White Water Nepal and Pokhara Lodge as members while seven more companies are in the membership pipeline. The company plans to bring in at least ten members this year.
“Many businesses have heard about eco-tourism but not everyone is aware about how they can make their businesses eco-friendly. We train them accordingly to help realise their role in sustainability as tourism based companies,” says Ayadi. NST also helps the companies to promote themselves as sustainable businesses based on the company’s strategies. Ayadi states NST has four objectives in mind- to make businesses aware about sustainable tourism, to empower them on how to manage sustainable travel, to equip them with necessary tools that recognise sustainability and to help in the promotion and marketing of a business as a sustainable tourism based company.
But what’s in it for the businesses? According to a survey done by booking.com, a travel meta-search engine, 62 percent of travellers seek to stay in hotels that run sustainably. The site has also mentioned sustainable tourism as one of the emerging trends in tourism. “We do not guarantee that the businesses involved with us will immediately see an increase in their customers but with more tourists becoming conscious about sustainable travel, it will tap into a niche market,” says Ayadi. “Also sustainable tourism can be seen as a Unique Selling Proposition for smaller businesses and startups.” According to him, it also helps the environment and involves local communities in travel destinations, such as during treks to rural areas to preserve the regions around them.
For Ayadi and his team, creating awareness about sustainable tourism comes as the biggest challenge for their company. “It is human nature for people not to believe in something unless they see it with their own eyes.” says Ayadi. And for the team, proving their statement is a tough task since the change is slow. “It will take almost two years to see the results of our actions.” he adds. Their credibility also relies on how aware a business is about sustainable tourism. Companies with previous training in and awareness about sustainability and their responsibility towards the environment seem to be more accepting about the concept of NST. But for other companies it is difficult to make them understand why this is important, points out Ayadi.
Despite the booming trend in sustainable tourism, the government has very few policies regarding sustainable tourism. NST is also trying to push the government to revise the Tourism Policy, 2065 to include more articles on sustainable tourism. But that is turning out to be a difficult task. “If the Tourism Policy can be revised, more tourism based businesses can become aware about sustainable tourism,” opines Ayadi. NST is also working to introduce a course on Sustainable Tourism at the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM).
The Future of Travel and Tourism
With an increase in international tourists, Nepal has also seen a growing trend in domestic tourism, due to which sustainability has become even more necessary. “When people travel to trekking destinations, they leave a lot of waste on the way. If we can train the tour guides to make people aware about such waste and make sure that people do not leave garbage in trekking routes, this will help to maintain the beauty of these trekking routes for years to come,” Ayadi explains. For him, it is all about making an impact on the environment and to preserve the natural beauty of Nepal for future generations.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization has declared 2017 to be the year for Sustainable Tourism for Development. Nepal, a country known for its natural beauty, definitely needs to be in the frontline of sustainable tourism if it wants to preserve its treasures, and Nepal Sustainable Travel is making an effort to ensure it does just that.