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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Interviewed by National News paper - Accord top priority to tourism: Ghimire

Forty-two-year-old Jiban Ghimire is one of the promising tourism entrepreneurs of Nepal. With about 20 years of experience in the field of adventure tourism, Ghimire is the managing director of the Sherpa Shangri-La Treks & Expedition (P) Ltd.

Born in Salu Village Development Committee Ward No. five of Ramechhap district, Ghimire is a law graduate. The innovative and painstaking entrepreneur has come to limelight after he joined hands with his foreign friends, and the Department of Archaeology to explore the mysterious hidden caves in the Upper Mustang.

Talking to Ballav Dahal of The Rising Nepal, he said that Nepal’s adventure tourism sector required a more favorable policy as well as skilled and well-trained technical hands. Excerpts

How would you see the current situation of adventure tourism business in Nepal?

Despite lack of some concrete measures, adventure tourism in Nepal has been growing. Data have shown that around 2,000 foreign climbers took permits to attempt various mountains in the country in 2008. In this year’s spring season, a total of 108 expedition teams received permits from the government. The number increased to 155 in the autumn season of the same year. The government made around US$ 82,24,000 as revenue from those teams.

Apart from this, a lot of people, including porters, guides, local lodge owners and other rural residents, also reaped benefits from the expedition sector alone.

What do you think are its prospects and emerging challenges?

Nepal is one of the best destinations in the world for adventure lovers, as it has a wide range of adventure products from mountaineering, trekking, hiking, rafting, kayaking, and paragliding to bungy jumping and skydive. We have a unique topography with an unparalleled scenic beauty. We have abundant floral and faunal resources. With such products, Nepal is really a land of innumerable opportunities for different types of adventure seekers.

Our adventure products have unique characteristics. For example, trekkers and climbers have to spend around 10 days to get in the Everest Base Camp. They will have to spend some more days to climb even smaller peaks. This is an adventure for them. But in some foreign countries, people can go to the mountain regions and make it to the peaks within some couple of hours.

Global recession could be detrimental to our tourism, as it has already started affecting many countries of the world. Because of this economic crisis, the prospective adventure seekers in various countries have begun to think on how to survive from it. This indicates that Nepal’s tourism could suffer. Therefore, we need to come up with more attractive offers and activities to maintain and further promote our tourism in order to cope up with this challenge.

Moreover, due to lack of our encouraging mountaineering policies, we are losing many potential climbers every year.

We also need to have a more comprehensive and favorable tourism policy for giving a desired boost to this potential sector. The policy should not be formulated on an ad hoc basis. The obscure and vague terminologies used in the policies and laws must be replaced by clear ones.

Besides, we are also lacking skilled and well-trained technical hands. Without such hands, we cannot promote the adventure tourism sector. We can take tourists in confidence only when we have rescue and other emergency services in place.

The Mustang cave project has shown your innovative effort to protect and promote the invaluable caves there. What is happening to the Mustang cave project at present?

We are working with National Geographic Channel. The project is being run under the coordination of the Department of Archaeology. The Mountaineering Section under the Tourism Industry Division has also extended some support to the project. Peter Athans, senior athlete of The North Face, archaeologist and professor from the United Kingdom Charles Ramble, and professor of Arizona State University Mark Aldendenfer are the foreign experts working with this project.

We have completed making inventories of more than 50 unique caves that reflect the 6th to the 12-century art and architecture. The experts have recommended for further researches on the caves. We are planning to protect and promote the caves as tourist attractions.

As a tourism entrepreneur, how have you viewed the ongoing peace process and political development in Nepal?

The peace process is moving ahead despite some obstacles created due to misunderstanding between and among the major political forces. It goes without saying that all entrepreneurs and common people need peace and stability. We, the entrepreneurs, have nothing to do with political ideologies. What we just want is peace, stability and favorable investment policy.

The political parties must abide by all the peace agreements, including the landmark Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) and the 12-point agreement, to take the peace process to a logical conclusion. They must give up the habits of blaming each other.

The political forces must forget all the differences and start the process of writing the new constitution. If the constitution is not drafted on time, the country will continue suffering from the problem of political and social unrest. It is a fact that the process of the country’s economic development will be obstructed in a political unstable country.

Finally, would you like to add something more to this?

I have just mentioned above about the need for political stability and clarity in policies. I urge the government and the political parties to dedicate themselves to taking the country to the right track first. The prevalence of unstable situation will take us nowhere.

It is a welcome step on the part of the new government that it has announced the Visit Nepal Year 2011. This is a very relevant event, as it will help revive the country’s tourism sector. As the event is being organized to draw the attention of the world towards Nepal, we need to offer some incentives and facilities to tourists. The government, together with all the concerned stakeholders, should start making preparations for the upcoming mega tourism event.

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