--BY BIJAY LAXMI DUWAL
With abundant destinations for enjoying adventure on the lap of breathtaking natural beauty, thrilling landscapes and out-stretching snowy high peaks, Nepal has become a hub for adventure tourism in the world. Tourist arrivals increased by nearly 25 percent to 1,117,072 in 2018, according to Nepal Tourism Board. With ‘Visit Nepal Tourism 2020’, an ambitious year-long campaign, less than a year away, NTB as well as other stakeholders are focused on tourism promotional activities. Of late, both the private and public sector seem to be doing their bits to promote Nepali tourism. Even the international media has acknowledged Nepal as a great tourism destination, especially adventure tourism.
However, the sector clearly lacks academically trained human resource. Realising the immense important of creating tourism professionals for the growth of the sector, Nepal Mountain Academy (NMA), which is run by the government of Nepal in affiliation with Tribhuvan University (TU),has developed the first ever Master of Adventure Tourism Studies (MATS) course. Prepared in 2018 for management students, MATS is a new academic programme in tourism not only for Nepal, but also for the entire world.
Romnath Gyawali, executive director at NMA, shares, “Nepal should have started this programme more than six decades ago, right after the success of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa to summit Everest in 1953.”
Driven by Demand
Before MATS, NMA had started Bachelor of Mountaineering Studies (BMS) for the first time in Nepal in 2017 considering the importance of specific academic skills for specific segments of tourism. The successful running of BMS coupled with positive feedback and a high demand for its master’s degree course encouraged the college to develop a master’s degree course in adventure tourism. After three years of intense exercise, the college today is all set to introduce MATS in 2019.“Soon after we launched BMS, we found that there was high demand for a master’s degree programme,” recalls Gyawali.
MATS is a two-year master’s degree course divided into four semesters. The course aims to provide students with an integrated knowledge of adventure tourism, develop leadership, competencies and professional efficiency in using promotional technique, marketing and measurement of adventure tourism. The college’s Admin Officer Uttam Babu Bhattarai states that the programme is incorporated in management stream because of its direct linkage with management and accounting.
Around 22 courses are embedded in the programme including Corporate Communication, Human Resource Management,Contemporary Tourism and Development, Global Mountains and Mountaineering, Economics of Tourism, Managing Protected Areas of Nepal in the first semester. The second semester comprises courses such as Accounting Adventure Tourism and Risk Recreation, E-Tourism, Adventure Tourism Operations and Management, Destination Planning, Development and Management, and Tourism Marketing.
Likewise,the third semester includes Financial Management in Tourism, Tourism Entrepreneurship, Statistics,and Cultural Heritage Tourism. The fourth semester consists of Tourism Research Methodology, Strategic Tourism Management, Health and Safety in Adventure Tourism and Mountaineering Management. Elective courses include Tourism Innovation, Tourism Crisis and Disaster Management and Event Tourism Management among others.
Before creating the programme, the college held discussions with around 30 different eminent people including professors, researchers, experts, mountain technicians and mountaineers and guides from International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA). According to Bhattarai, the courses for both BMS and MATS were formed under the leadership of Pro Dr Ramesh Raj Kunwar, former Dean at TU. Likewise, Lakhpa Phuti Sherpa, co-mountaineer of Pasang Lamhu Sherpa led the executive part of the programme. The syllabus was formed following international standards which suit even international students coming to Nepal. Gyawali shares that preparing the programme took one year while it took six months to get TU’s approval.
Since the master degree programme is focused on research, NMA decided to introduce the programme with an objective to produce human resource which can conduct research on tourism activities and destinations in the country.
The programme also aims to prepare future professionals to strategically manage adventure tourism and make sustainable and effective decisions in positions of high responsibility. The programme trains the future researchers in the field of adventure tourism management. It also helps the students to develop skills for networking, designing and costing of adventure tourism activities efficiently.
MATS graduates will have a wider scope even beyond adventure tourism like in government and non-government sectors, research institutions, tourism and hospitality industries, rural and mountain development institutes and even other fields of management sectors.
Additionally, MATS graduates will have a great platform to represent their competencies and voices in the international market through their own research projects and books. The college believes that MATS graduates can efficiently handle operational aspects of adventure tourism.
A majority of tourists visit Nepal for adventure. Some of them even conduct research on the country’s adventure tourism. Gyawali shares, “Nepal has many tourist destinations and a significant number of Nepalis are engaged in the sector. But unfortunately, we can hardly find books based on research by native researchers on the country’s tourism.”
Bhattarai explains, “Most of the authors of books based on Nepal’s adventure tourism are foreigners. Many Nepali mountain guides/ mountaineers are continuing the traditional way of running tourism business.” Also to change the conventional way of tourist activities, the college has developed these programmes, according to Bhattarai. Another reason for developing the master’s degree programme is to include the overall adventure activities of Nepal rather than focusing on only mountain studies like in BMS.
While studying, MATS students willbe gaining experience at the same time as they will be participating in different international tourism conferences, training programmes, case studies, project work, field trips, review work (books/journals) and practical demonstration. As in BMS, there will be guest lecture from different mountain climbers and trekkers in Nepal. With the college’s own travelling cost, the students will be taken to different tourism spots for adventure activities at least for six days in the first semester. Likewise, in third semester, they will have to go for trekking for a minimum of 12 to 14 days. Similarly, they will be studying through trips after completion of the last semester. Likewise, some of the technical equipment are provided by the college while some are to be managed by the students themselves.
International Students Welcome!
NMA will be the first college in Nepal to attract international students by establishing a separate international department for academic programmes, claims Gyawali. NMA recently established the international department in response to many inquiries received for the programmes from different countries including India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, the USA and Europe.
According to the college, it received two applications from international students last year for BMS. Though these two international students could not be enrolled in the BMS course due to various reasons, the college has learnt some important lessons which could be helpful in attracting international students to MATS. “We realised that many things like follow-up, accommodation, insurance, job platform needs to be managed systematically when they come. Moreover, there was no student visa for international students in Nepal,” shares Gyawali.
Gyawali further says, “We are creating environment to reverse the Nepali education trend by welcoming international students to Nepali colleges instead of sending Nepali students to foreign colleges and universities.”
The college will be announcing the first intake for MATS in the academic session of 2019. Students from any stream aspiring to join MATS will be required to pass a CMAT test conducted by TU. For international students, NMA is preparing to call them two months before the announcement of CMAT test to teach them about CMAT preparation test and Nepali language in free of cost.
The total cost of the two-year programme is Rs 400,000 for Nepali students while NMA is yet to set the cost for international students. As per TU, NMA will be providing scholarships to two Nepali students. It is also planning to provide discounts on types of payment for international students.
Classes will be run in the morning from 6:30 am to 10 am at the college’s own building at Bijulibazar, Kathmandu.