Category Archives: Sustainable Travel

Shining A Light On Chef Massimo Bottura

Read about Chef Massimo Bottura’s ventures and find out more about the hosted experience in Emilia-Romagna through the eyes of Massimo Bottura.

Light isn’t just a feature of chef Massimo Bottura’s restaurants, it is an essential element in all his projects, from his avant-garde culinary art through his fight on food waste and his work to uncover the invisible potential of others.

When Massimo Bottura launched his most recent Refettorio (refectory) in Rio de Janeiro, his experience was gruelling.

“When you shine a light, bad people don’t like it. We had a couple of times where they came and put guns to our heads and stole computers and telephones, so we knew we were in the right place, but we were open every night.”

It is typical of Bottura’s personal philosophy to link culture, food and human gesture and it has led to a remarkable style of cuisine: one where intense personal experiences are related to meaningful global movements.

Chef Bottura’s take on the Refettorio concept as a communal dining space that brings people together for group meals and gatherings is perfect, although not always harmonious, blend of these three elements.

Bottura’s team brought light and beauty, music and food to communities, and slowly the negative people and behaviours disappeared.

Through his “Food For Soul” non-profit organisation, Bottura brought many Refettorios to various places around the world, 11 and counting with each as a centre of good food, sharing and culture, always targeting a place in need of rejuvenation and restoration.

Massimo Bottura is a major ingredient of this success. His commitment to the power of culture to transform blighted spaces is like a spotlight – it illuminates the problem and focuses on the solution.

It is a clear-headed understanding of the need to build community at the human level, one individual gesture at a time. That’s why Massimo cooks.

Whether he is at a Massimo Bottura restaurant, working with a team that outnumbers the diners two to one, or at one of his Refettorios, cooking with other volunteer chefs for hundreds of people… He brings the same acute attention to the quality of the food, the experience of dining, and the role of culture in teaching, uniting and sharing.

The idea started in Expo 2015 in Milan, to make a unique kind of gesture about Italy’s greatest export: its hospitality.

The plan was to create a kitchen in which some of the world’s greatest chefs would be invited to cook alongside him for the city’s homeless, using food deemed unsuitable for sale in supermarkets, making a statement about waste, and about taste.

That’s how his first came to be — Refettorio Ambrosiano — based in Greco, one of Milan’s poorest districts, serving food to the homeless, disadvantaged and refugees.

“It hasn’t been easy at the beginning”, Bottura says. “The first Refettorio was unpopular with many local residents. Protesters even marched against the idea.” But slowly Bottura won them over. He began by creating utility and beauty in the form of 14 refectory tables, each created by a leading Italian designer.

At first, his unimpressed customers ate fast and left faster, but the transcendent nature of sharing began to lighten their fears. Within months they were staying longer, laughing more and even commenting on the quality of food being served to them, requesting less soup and more pasta!

This is Bottura’s vision in action – social gestures that create a collective spirit. This is the vision that drives him to play football with refugee teens outside the Refettorio or create recipes for his local cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano.

It causes him to invest in modern art that he hopes will help his diners decode the messages contained in the unique Massimo Bottura recipes, many of which dissect the essential features of famous dishes and reconstruct them in exciting new ways that Bottura describes as “we break things, we rebuild things”.

It might be a dish, a blank space on a wall or an empty building in a ghetto, but regardless, Bottura shines a light on what was, what is, and invites us to join him in what could be – something better than the past, built on the experience of the present.

Find out more about the Hosted Experience with Massimo Bottura by Satopia Travel, which specialises in unique experiences led by world-class hosts.

This virtual event is part of the Dare to Dream series of virtual experiences, free and open to the public events organised by Satopia Travel, with world thought-leaders as they talk about how travel helps to make a difference in the world and they remind us why we all must keep travelling and continue to dream.

Top 10 Places To Visit In Mahabaleshwar With Your Family

Planning a weekend getaway from Mumbai or Pune? Have you considered visiting Mahabaleshwar?

A small, peaceful hill station, located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Mahabaleshwar has long been considered a summer getaway destination by vacationers since British colonial rule.

It was, in fact, regarded as the summer capital for the Bombay (now Mumbai) province during those times.

© Priya Florence Shah

Mahabaleshwar offers a soothing climate to travellers all year round. However, in the monsoon, it does experience quite heavy rainfall.

In summers, you can easily spend a weekend chilling out in some of the most beautiful resorts and hotels located in Mahabaleshwar, far away from the hectic city life of Mumbai and Pune.

In this article, we list some of the best places to visit in Mahabaleshwar for a family vacation.  These Mahabaleshwar points of interest are characterised by picturesque views, lush green vegetations, historic sites, and an overall sense of rejuvenation.

Even if you are planning for a 5 to 7-day vacation, you will not fall short of places to see and things to do.

Before we get into the details of Mahabaleshwar tourist spots, let us give you an idea about recent developments in Mahabaleshwar tourism.

Eco-Tourism in Mahabaleshwar

Recently, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has taken the initiative to develop eco-tourism by providing bicycles for tourists in Ganpatipule and Mahabaleshwar.

Cycling posts have been created with the help of local tour operators, where the tourists can hire bicycles to move around at the rate of INR 20 for an hour, and INR 100 for 24 hours.

Gear bicycles are also available for tourists at the rate of INR 100 for 1 hour, keeping in mind the hilly terrain of Mahabaleshwar.

This step towards preserving sustainability has been lauded by all, as it is believed to have an impact in reducing pollution in the region. So, if you’re planning a Mahabaleshwar trip, don’t forget to include cycling gear in your luggage.

Top 10 Can’t-Miss Mahabaleshwar Attractions

Here’s a list of 10 of the best places to see in Mahabaleshwar.

  1. The Mapro Garden

If you’re visiting Mahabaleshwar with your children, the Mapro Garden should be the first place you see.

Established in 1959, this scenic garden park has its own chocolate factory, a separate children’s play area and a restaurant serving delicious cuisine. It is best to visit the Mapro Garden in Easter, because of the Annual Strawberry Festival held during this time.

The strawberry pizzas, bhel, and sandwiches available here will leave you yearning for more. Besides, hundreds of farmers bring their fresh produce and offer them to tourists for free.

  1. The Venna Lake

Built by Shri Appasaheb Maharaj, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in the year 1942, this serene lake, surrounded by lush greenery on all sides, covers an area of 28 acres.

By Ganesh G (Ganeshrg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the most popular places on the Mahabaleshwar points list for tourists, it offers exciting activities, ranging from boating to horse rides.

Although it was primarily built by the ruler to cater to the water needs of the area, it has become a tourist hot spot since independence.

  1. Connaught Peak

One of the best Mahabaleshwar picnic spots, the Connaught Peak (1,400 metres) was renamed after the Duke Connaught, as it was initially called Mount Olympia.

With no entry fee, you can enjoy panoramic views of Krishna Valley, Venna Lake, Panchgani, Pratapgarh, and Pasarani, not to forget the amazing sunrise and sunset views that can leave you spellbound.

  1. The Mahabaleshwar Temple

Lord Mahabaleshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has been a holy shrine for the Maratha warriors.

Its 6-foot long ‘Shiva Lingam’, and the belongings of Lord Shiva like his ‘damru’, his bed, his ‘trishula’, carvings of the sacred bull and ‘Kalbhairava’, are the main attractions for Hindu pilgrims from all over the country.

However, the temple’s serene and spiritual environs, which depicts the calmness of the Great Lord is also a remarkable experience for general tourists.

  1. Chinaman’s Fall

Your trip to Mahabaleshwar will be incomplete without visiting his fascinating point, the Chinaman’s Fall, named after the Chinese prison located nearby.

In the monsoon season, the breathtaking view of the descent can leave you awestruck. It is also a favourable picnic spot for families with children. However, do not forget to carry extra clothes for your toddlers, in case they get wet.

  1. Elephant’s Head Point

Sightseeing in Mahabaleshwar is incomplete without visiting the Elephant’s Head Point (also called Needle Hole Point), especially because of its green surroundings and the ecstatic views of the Sahyadri range.

Rishabh Tatiraju [CC BY-SA 3.0]
The rocks on this site take the shape of an elephant’s head and its trunk, giving the tourist hot spot its unique name. Founded in 1930 by Dr Murray, the site is considered to be one of the best picnic spots in the region.

  1. Krishnabai Temple

The temple is known to be the origin of the Krishna River, whose significance in the Hindu culture is overlooked by many.

Karthik Easvur [CC BY-SA 4.0]
This serene and beautiful temple in the woods looks best in the monsoon when it is covered in moss with lush green vegetation all around. You have to take a walk through the woods, following the trail from the Panchaganga temple to reach here.

  1. Tableland

Mostly preferred by filmmakers for its marvellous views and soothing weather conditions, the Tableland plateau is considered the second longest one in Asia.

It is covered by evergreen vegetation, a treat to the eyes of the nature lovers, and it is also regarded as a ‘trekker’s paradise, because of its pleasant climate.

  1. Pratapgad Fort

One of the most popular places to visit near Mahabaleshwar, the Pratapgad Fort is located at a distance of 20 kilometres from the Mahabaleshwar hill station.

Neeraj Rane [CC BY-SA 4.0]
The ruins of the fort, which was built by the fierce Maratha rulers in 1665, lures tourists because of its exotic location on the top of a hill, its historic value and the breathtaking views it offers.

  1. Tapola

Also known as Mini Kashmir, Tapola is located at a distance of 25 kilometres from Mahabaleshwar and boasts of rich scenic beauty.

It is picturesque, serene and well-maintained throughout with a lake called the Shivsagar Lake, which is the main attraction of the place.

You can enjoy some water scooters, boating, kayaking and even swimming in the lake. Tapola also offers an exotic jungle trek to Vasota Fort, if you wish to opt for some adventure along the way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCC8auvbfOg

Where to Stay in Mahabaleshwar

There are plenty of good hotels and resorts in and around the Mahabaleshwar hill station to stay with your family. Many of the resorts in Mahabaleshwar offer exquisite natural views from most of the rooms.

Some of the best hotels in Mahabaleshwar are located on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani road and the Satara road. However, if you’re an explorer by heart, you can always go camping and live in tents to satisfy your adventurous spirit.

You can plan a short weekend getaway from Pune or Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar when you do your Mahabaleshwar booking.

But if you’re willing to take a week off, head to Pune, from where you can take a road trip to Mahabaleshwar and explore other places near Mahabaleshwar and do some Panchgani sightseeing to boot.

If you find our information on Mahabaleshwar useful, please let us know in the comments section below. Have a great trip!

3 Sustainable Travel Tips To Make The World A Better Place

In my eyes, travel is one of the most important things we can do to better ourselves.

Not only do you see amazing monuments and meet colourful people, you learn different ways of overcoming issues and grow as an individual.

As a traveller, I’ve always tried to support the local community I was visiting, However, it wasn’t until I ventured to Asia did I fully see the importance of sustainable travel.

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

From supporting local companies that give back to the community to just making a positive impact with everyone you meet, sustainable travel is fulfilling and much easier than a lot of travellers think.

Here are 3 ways to travel more sustainably so you can change people and the environment and yourself for the better.

  1. Book a tour with a sustainable travel company

I get it. Travel can be expensive and a sustainable tour only costs more.

But when you meet your local hiking guide or scuba diving instructor, I personally love to know they are paid a decent wage for guiding me for a day or two.

For example, during my time in northern Vietnam, I booked an overnight tour through the cascading rice terraces around SaPa. When I travelled through SaPa, only two trekking companies were known to give back to the locals in the area – SaPa O’Chau and SaPa Sisters.

SaPa Trek, Vietnam

I eventually settled on SaPa O’Chau and even though their guided trek was a little more expensive I was assured the extra money goes straight to the guides and owners of the homestay.

As soon as I met my guide Xuan (pronounced ‘swan’) I was so glad I knew she was getting paid well. It made me feel like a better traveller.

Hiking in SaPa, Vietnam

Xuan doubled as my homestay owner, and not only did her family cook for our small group of four hikers, a comfortable bed for a good night’s rest was provided.

If I contributed to many companies in the area that possibly pay their employees an unfair wage for guiding a trek all day, I would’ve felt terrible. Let alone interacting with her wonderful family.

Sustainable travel is incredibly important to the locals who depend on the industry to survive. However, travelling responsibly comes in many other forms.

  1. Book a tour guide with a company that cares for the environment

Travel is amazing because it’s able to bring so many people together from different cultures and walks of life.

Learning about not only the local area but your fellow travellers as well. Protecting our environment so others can enjoy the beauty we sometimes take for granted.

Once again, Asia opened my eyes to the importance of education and action when it comes to the environment.

Growing up in Australia I always had a profound respect for the oceans and the marine life within it. When I travelled through Asia it became obvious the same environmental concerns were not present.

Education is such an important aspect of environmental protection. I saw many locals toss empty water bottles into rivers as if it were the bin.

For the most part, it’s not knowing that the plastic bottles take so long to decompose. That’s why I love supporting companies who not only educate why preservation is important but also initiate beach and ocean clean-up days.

In 2018 I visited Thailand to learn how to scuba dive, it was every bit as amazing as I hoped.

Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island, Thailand

While some beaches are incredibly beautiful, with clear waters and golden sands, if you explore a little further it’s not hard to see one where all the rubbish piles up.

From hundreds of flip flops and water bottles to Styrofoam and toothbrushes. It can be hard to stomach.

After diving, my love for the water only grew and I put a decent amount of effort into researching companies that care for the ocean. I found Princess Divers on Phi Phi Island.

With great guides and stunning underwater scenery to work with, I loved diving with them. However, it was their love for protecting the water that made them my sole recommendation for diving on Phi Phi Island.

Not only do they organize a regular clean-up of the beaches in the area, but the education they provide about the ocean is also second to none.

From identifying unique marine life and how to respect their environment to choosing products, like sunscreen, that don’t negatively affect the ocean and marine life within it.

  1. Make a positive impact with everyone you encounter

Travelling sustainably and ethical comes in many forms. Just engaging with a local or another traveller can be an easy way to enrich travel experiences.

Hanoi is one city where a simple conversation can help a local more than you might think. Every weekend, the small park around Thap Rua closes the busy streets and families flock to play games and talk.

Hanoi at night, Vietnam

Many young kids and university students will spark conversations with tourists to practise their English. It’s even part of some university courses to practise their English with travellers.

Not only does engaging with locals help them, but it also makes travel more fulfilling for you as you learn more about local ways of life.

Fulfilling travel doesn’t need to expensive and engaging with the locals is an amazing way to get more from your time on the road without spending a dime!

Travel is my favourite thing to do. Full stop.

Making sure you leave a positive impact on every place you visit not only helps you evolve into a more satisfied traveller, but the effect of choosing ethically-minded companies and even just interacting with locals can also create such a profound change to people and the environment.

This is why travel is such an important thing for all of us to do.

43 Facts About Indian Travellers That Will Surprise And Intrigue You

Most people who have dealt with Indian travellers will have realised that we’re not the best of tourists. We’re cheap and can be uncouth, but as far as the Indian tourist’s behaviour is concerned, we’re hardly the world’s worst tourists.

No, the award for the worst-behaved tourists goes to… domestic tourists.

However, things are changing in India, and Indians seem to be getting more adventurous and generous with their travel budgets.

As this article in Forbes notes:

Encouraged by its pace-setting 7% GDP global growth rate, rising personal income levels and changing lifestyles, huge middle class as well as the availability of low-cost air fares and diverse travel packages, India is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing outbound travel markets in the world, second only to China.

Here are some facts that will thrill and delight tour operators who deal with Indian tourists.

  1. At present, around 25 million tourists from India travel abroad.
  2. Outbound Travel from India is growing at 15-18 per cent annually.
  3. India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020.
  4. 31 per cent of Indian tourists were willing to spend over Rs 50,000 on a trip.
  5. Total outbound spending will cross the $28 billion mark in 2020.
  6. India has 28 million passport holders, all of whom are potential travellers.
  7. By 2030, the value of India’s business travel market is expected to reach $93 billion.
  8. When travelling abroad, Indian tourists are among the world’s highest-spending globetrotters. Their spending power has been estimated to be four times that of the Chinese and Japanese.
  9. The average Indian traveller spends $1,200 per visit as compared with Americans who spend about $700, and Brits who spend $500.

These are compelling statistics, so if you haven’t been targeting Indian tourists so far, perhaps it’s time to do it now. To learn what Indians want from their travel experiences, keep reading.

What Are Indian Travellers Looking For?

  1. The top rated reason Indian travellers take a vacation is to rejuvenate, followed closely by spending quality time with family and taking time away from city life.
  2. 40 per cent of all outbound trips by Indians are for business purposes, leisure, visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and others account for 20 per cent.
  3. City tours and shopping are the most preferred activities across domestic and international locations. Three in four travellers exploring new destinations and over 60% of honeymooners, too, chose city tours as their most preferred activity.
  4. Adventure travellers ranked water sports as a favourite, with a large share picking water sports and scuba diving.
  5. Indians said they liked to buy food and drink items at airports. While designer clothes and jewellery are a close second for women, male travellers said they liked buying perfumes or colognes from airport stores.
  6. Over half give high priority to the availability of restaurants and cafes when picking a new destination to visit.
  7. Festivals are new travel days with the most popular travel weekends being Maha Shivratri, Holika Dahan and Good Friday.
  8. While the preferred choice of accommodation remained budget hotels, Indians want to spend more on experiences and exploration of the destination as well as shopping, food, and drink.

Tip: Indians are price-conscious when it comes to accommodation, but will spend on shopping and food. Plan your tours to cater to these preferences. Plan your marketing campaigns around festivals and major holidays, like Diwali.

More Indians Are Travelling Sustainably

Surprise, surprise! Indians are some of the most mindful and environmentally conscious travellers out there. (yes, I’m surprised, too)

There are always exceptions, and to visit India would make it seem like we’re not the most civic-minded people in our own country. But the facts below can’t be denied.

  1. Around 97 per cent of Indian travellers want to travel sustainably in 2018 with 88 per cent of them willing to pay a premium.
  2. While 73 per cent of current Indian travellers always or often opt for sustainable travel, around 32 per cent are willing to pay at least 15 per cent more to ensure as low an impact on the environment as possible.
  3. The sustainable activities most enjoyed by Indians during vacations are buying locally made products instead of mass-produced tourist souvenirs, using public transport instead of a taxi and to find a local restaurant that only uses local ingredients.
  4. Indians also like skipping tourist highlights in favour of less busy and often more rewarding sights and opt for a place to stay that is a certified eco-accommodation over a traditional hotel
  5. Most Indians were motivated by impressive natural sights, including rainforests, coral reefs, among others.
  6. About 72 per cent also felt motivated by the positive effect sustainable tourism had on local people.

Tip: Include more eco-friendly options in your tour packages. Eco-lodges and homestays are a great option for the price-conscious Indian traveller, especially those that give back to the community. Avoid elephant rides and cruel animal attractions, and promote sustainable practices. For example, providing reusable water bottles with your logo is a cheap way to promote sustainability and get free branding to boot.

Indians Are Family Travellers

  1. Indians are the most family-oriented globally and prefer destinations that offer fun activities for all.
  2. Sixty-four per cent of Indians feel the availability of family fun activities are the most important factor when choosing a holiday destination
  3. Visits to amusement parks and boat rides are high on priority among international travellers.

Tip: As an Indian, I know that many Indian couples like to travel with parents and kids in tow. Provide a multi-generational experience and include activities (not necessarily together) that are enjoyable for seniors as well as youngsters, and your tours will be a favourite with Indian travellers.

What Are Indian Travellers’ Favourite Destinations?

Indians love to explore places of historical and cultural significance. They also love to shop and eat out.

  1. When deciding on a destination for holiday, Indian travellers cited scenic beauty, convenient place to travel to, and affordability as their top factors.
  2. Travellers from India also said they will choose destinations based on historical landmarks and great shopping choices.
  3. Up to 97% of Indian respondents said they’d travel within the country for their spiritual needs.
  4. Beaches and hills topped the list, catching the fancy of approximately a third of all vacationers.
  5. Beach destinations like Goa, Mumbai, Port Blair and Kochi are a popular option for weekend getaways.
  6. Goa, Delhi and Kerala were the most popular domestic destinations among Indian travellers.
  7. Globally, Indian travellers are most likely to travel to Dubai, Thailand and Singapore.
  8. Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok are ranked as the three most popular international destinations for weekend getaways in 2018.
  9. Four in 10 were most likely to choose foreign destinations for their honeymoons.
  10. Four out of the top five destinations for honeymooners were countries in southeast Asia, with Indonesia leading the pack.
  11. Europe commands an estimated market share of about 20 per cent of all Indian outbound departures.
  12. 24 per cent of Indian holiday-makers picked Paris as the top dream destination in Europe followed by London.
  13. While 41 per cent picked Oxford Street as the top shopping destination in London, 30 per cent said they would go for malls for discounted luxury goods.

Tip: Make sure your tour options include restaurants that serve vegetarian or vegan food since many Indians do not eat meat.

How Do Domestic Tourists Get Around?

  1. The bus is the most common mode of transport for India’s domestic tourists. This is true in both rural and urban areas. It accounts for 33.5% of travel in urban areas and 49.9% in rural areas.
  2. Trains and hired transport are the two other major modes of transport in both areas.
  3. Air travel is limited to 1.9% for urban and 0.1% for rural travel.

Tip: I don’t see this changing anytime soon since paying airfare for an entire family can cost a small fortune. However, Indians love a discount or two. They also love perks, like upgrades to business travel. Throw in some freebies and you might get more to take the bait.

Indian Travellers & Timeshares

  1. Indians are warming up towards timeshares.
  2. Timeshare owners are typically married 45 to 65-year olds. They have kids who are more than 6 years.
  3. They generally have their own business, have a monthly income of more than Rs 76,000 to more than 1 lakh.
  4. They start planning almost 1- 4 months in advance and prefer going on group tours.

Tip: As a single mom, I’ve been staying in timeshares for almost all of my kid’s childhood. They’re family-friendly and provide safe accommodation for single moms travelling solo or with kids. They also provide free, in-house entertainment options that parents like me love. Consider these demographics when you promote your timeshare offering.

References:

  1. India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020: Report
  2. How India Has Become A Booming Supplier Of Outbound Tourists
  3. Global Travel Suppliers Eye India’s Outbound Tourism Market
  4. 97% Indians travellers eye ‘sustainable’ tourism in 2018: Survey
  5. Indians, most family-oriented travellers: survey
  6. Indian travel enthusiasts prefer foreign shores for long weekend getaways
  7. For love or for god: Why Indians travel
  8. How India travels
  9. Indians are warming up towards the timesharing vacation trend, study reveals

The Himalayan Travel Mart 2018: Nepal, The Gateway To The Himalayas

Himalayan Travel Mart 2018

Nepal was not even on my radar – or on my bucket list – as a place to visit until I was invited to attend its biggest tourism event, the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018, on 1st and 2nd June 2018. The tag-line for the event, held at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu, was “Nepal, Gateway to the Himalaya.”

Before coming to Nepal, I thought the only things to see in this country were the mountains and temples. But after I went on my FAM Tour of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Panauti, I realised that there’s so much more to Nepal – the culture, art, history, architecture, and the warm and wonderful Nepali people.

Organised by the Nepal Tourism Board, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal chapter and a number of other travel and tourism organizations, the theme of the event was ‘The Sustainable Road to Five Million Visitors in 2030’.

If this sounds a bit ambitious for a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake of 2015, that’s because it is, as many experts and speakers reminded us over the course of two days.

Of the 3-day event, I attended two days:

  • June 1, 2018: Himalayan Travel Mart Conference (HTM2018)
  • June 2, 2018: International Travel Bloggers & Media Conference (ITBMC)

At the HTM, I had the privilege of hearing a number of luminaries speak, including:

The Sustainable Road to Five Million Visitors in 2030

For me, the highlights of the talks were the suggestions made by each of the speakers on whether the goal of the conference – Five Million Visitors in 2030 – is attainable, or even desirable.

As many of them pointed out, it’s better to attract quality tourists and High Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) who stay for longer and spend more, as opposed to backpackers who don’t add value or contribute in a significant way to the tourism kitty.

PATA Chairman, Chris Bottrill, highlighted the major talent deficit in tourism and the need for the Nepal government to invest in human capital.

Nepal has a lot going for it, he said, including:

  • The unparalleled regional growth of tourism
  • The hospitable nature of the Nepali people
  • The ASEAN mutual recognition agreement
  • The abundance of skilled professionals and
  • The huge pool of untapped talent

However, the challenges for Nepal include:

  • The overall lack of qualified and experienced tourism professionals
  • The talent drain to other countries and
  • The lack of infrastructure

“Kathmandu is choking,” said adventurer Adrian Hayes. “You’ve got to make it easier for people to come to this country. You’ve got to work on population control.”

Adrian Hayes highlights the problem of traffic in Kathmandu

“Bhutan has a lot of lessons you can learn from on sustainability,” he noted. “Look at developing other areas than Everest base camp and Annapurna. Get them away from the tourist trails. There are too many people on Everest. It cannot sustain more climbers, and it’s becoming a great controversy every year.”

Adrian Hayes on how he carried an Airbus 380 up Everest

Philip McMaster agreed, asking the Nepal government to “Return (Everest) to the treasure that it once was and still can be.” I love your country, he said, but it’s becoming very difficult.

Philip McMaster highlights the problem of trash in Nepal’s tourist places

He also highlighted the issues of trash, Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) and how tourism can be part of the solution to attaining Nepal’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Philip McMaster on attaining Nepal’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Dr Bert Van Walbeek also discussed the SDGs and even went so far as to advise the government to “close down Everest for one year, and then reopen it and charge double the price” to climb it.

Dr Bert discusses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

However, Everest is a huge draw for adventure tourism in Nepal and brings in a lot of revenue, so not everyone agreed with this rather drastic step.

The inspiring Tashi Tenzing Sherpa, who has climbed 35 to 40 virgin peaks in Antarctica, having spent some 17 seasons there, and summited Everest thrice, didn’t agree that the highest mountain on Earth should be closed down.

Tashi Tenzing Sherpa’s inspiring talk

Like most of the others, he recommended a middle ground. When he climbed Denali peak, he recalled, the climbers had to bring back every bit of waste from the mountain.

“Stop exploiting the mountain,” he said, recommending that adventure tour operators expand their offers to include other peaks like those in the Upper Mustang region.

Personally, I agree with Mr Tenzing, especially after reading Ben Fogle’s article in The Guardian, about a huge clean-up that is returning Everest to its former glory.

As the article says, in many people’s minds, Everest has lost her crown. She has become a mountain synonymous with death, exploitation and pollution and is often reported to be the ‘the world’s highest garbage dump.’

But the Nepalese government has implemented a number of requirements, including that each climber removes an additional 8 kg of litter (not including their own) and offered incentives for Sherpas of $2 per kilo of rubbish removed.

They imposed “litter fines” at base camp and tried to address the problem of human faeces by encouraging people to take bags with them to carry their own poo off the mountain (the same applies in Antarctica).

Sherpas and other climbers were given 10 canvas bags each capable of holding 80 kg (176 lbs) of waste to place at different elevations on Everest. Once full, the bags were winched by helicopters and flown down the mountain.

Removing the sacks by air meant that the Sherpa guides did not have to risk carrying heavy loads of waste through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall to the base camp.

Meeting Philip McMaster and making new friends at HTM 2018

Initiatives like these make one hopeful that Nepal can still muster up the political will to improve its infrastructure and attract the kind of tourists that will boost its economy.

But if the proliferation of English and foreign language institutes in Kathmandu is anything to go by, it tells me that Nepali youth are disenchanted with the lack of opportunities in their own nation and are looking for greener pastures abroad.

The youth of Nepal want respectable jobs and better opportunities.

Unless the Nepalese government invests in its human capital and provides its young people with the respectable jobs and growth opportunities they are looking for, brain drain might prove to be the tourism industry’s biggest challenge yet.