Posted by: TRN | Date: March 29, 2011
Tilak Bahadur Lama is the Chairman of Nepal Canyoning Association (NCA) and Managing Director of Himaland Adventure Treks (P) Limited.
Born in Bolde Pheriche Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kavrepalanchowk district in 1965, Lama has been into the adventure tourism for about two decades. An MBA from Shanker Dev Campus, the trekking guide and tour officer-turn entrepreneur is affiliated with different professional and social institutions.
At the initiative of Lama and the NCA team, the International Canyoning Rendezvous (ICR) 2011, is going to be held in the Marsyangdi Valley in the second week of April this year. The adventure event, which will be the first of its kind in Asia, is expected to be helpful in making Nepal known as an important venue for international canyoning lovers.
The diligent and friendly entrepreneur hopes that the ICR 2011 will help establish Nepal as a canyoning destination as well. The widely travelled tourism leader has spoken to Ballav Dahal of The Rising Nepal on the forthcoming international adventure event and some other issues related to the Nepalese tourism industry. Excerpts:
The NCA, in collaboration with various tourism-related institutions, is organizing the ICR 2011 in Nepal from April 7-13. What preparations are being made for making this international event a success?
The ICR 2011 is going to be held in Syange and Garmu villages of the beautiful Marsyangdi Valley. The venues are located on the way to the world-famous Annapurna Circuit Trekking. We have got very good responses from international participants and partners—the Himalayan Canyon Team (HCT) and the Federation Francais de Speleologie (FFS), which are based in France. About 200 participants from home and abroad are going to take part in the event. Of them, 25 will be from Nepal. This figure is beyond out target. All the participants are well-trained, professional canyoneers.
The NCA team has remained effortful in making necessary preparations for the ICR 2011. We have been working together with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), and several other agencies such as Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Lamjung District development Committee (DDC) and Lamjung Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
How has NCA been able to hold such a vital event in Nepal?
In the past, most of the annual ICRs would take place in Europe. The ICR is a global forum for practicing, exchanging and learning technical skills of canyoning. Presenting documentaries, slide shows and delivering lectures and holding interactions among canyoning experts and professionals are other regular features of such forums.
After the formation of NCA in 2007, we explored many areas in Nepal for finding out potential places for canyoning. At the same time, we started holding consultations with HCT, FFS and other responsible organizations for organizing an ICR in Nepal. With our constant efforts and the support of these international partners, we have become successful in hosting the event in Nepal.
How will it support Nepal’s tourism sector?
The ICR 2011 is sure to help develop a new adventure tourism product—canyoning. Nepal has already been famous for mountaineering, trekking and rafting. With the establishment of this new product, it will add a new dimension to our adventure tourism. We are confident that Nepal will be a leader even in canyoning considering our topography and landscape.
Canyoning is an adventure sport with mixed nature. As canyoning involves walking, jumping and swimming, it will give a boost to Nepal’s mountain tourism as a whole.
The ICR 2011 also holds a lot of significance in the sense that it coincides with the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY 2011). We hope that this ICR will help restore Nepal’s destination image internationally.
What are the main challenges for promoting canyoning in Nepal?
I think, lack of sufficient number of skilled hands is the major challenge. We cannot promote canyoning commercially without producing required skilled manpower, as it is riskier and highly technical.
So, NCA has focused on training. Since there are no trainers in Nepal, we have brought trainers from France. We have conducted two training programmes and produced around 19 skilled hands. At present, there are altogether 30 trained canyoning guides in Nepal. We are planning to train 10 more people in the next training programme.
How do you assess the present tourism situation in Nepal?
There is no doubt that Nepal is an exotic tourism destination. We have unparalleled tourist attractions ranging from the landscape to the culture. Despite having such a culture based on the oriental philosophy and unrivalled topography, we have not been able to reap benefits from tourism. We also have failed to offer innovative products. Lack of air connectivity has been another problem.
As we have to depend for bringing in tourists on foreign airlines, their fares are very high. So, our tour packages are costlier than that of many other destinations at regional and global levels.
Besides, the political problem has been hindering our tourism industry. International tour operators often appreciate Nepal as an exotic destination, but they are not in a position to sell the country because of the existing political unrest.
How will the NTY 2011 help boost the country’s tourism?
The national tourism campaign seems to have crated a lot of awareness about the importance of tourism among the people throughout the country. But there is no any immediate possibility of getting benefits from domestic tourism.
I think, it would be better if such publicity and promotional activities were carried out in tourist generating countries. It is sad that we have not offered anything new to tourists even during the NTY 2011.
However, Nepal’s tourism has a bright future considering her tourism resources.
As a tourism entrepreneur, what are your suggestions for the government?
Because tourism can be an economic mainstay of the country, the government and other concerned bodies should devise tourism marketing and promotion plans and programmes based on researches and international trends. Instead of focusing on the number of tourists, we need to set the target of earning certain amount of foreign exchange. We must come up with innovative plans and strategies for the development of tourism.
I do not think that our tourism, which is running spontaneously, will grow by leaps and bounds immediately. It is the private sector that has taken the lead role in the development of the tourism industry in Nepal. But the private sector’s initiatives alone will not be sufficient. The government bodies and private sector should forge partnership and move ahead hand in hand to utilize our unlimited tourism resources.