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Monday, May 2, 2011

A promising entrepreneur pleads for tourism-friendly policies

Jiban Ghimire is a familiar name in the Nepalese travel trade circle. Ghimire, who is one of few successful tourism entrepreneurs, is the Managing Director of Sherpa Shangri-La Treks & Expeditions (P) Ltd. The reputed company concentrates its attention on quality tourists rather than numbers.

Born at Samalisthan village of Salu Village Development Committee (VDC – ward # 05) of Ramechhap district in January 1967, Ghimire has been with the adventure travel tourism trade for more than two decades.
After completing his primary education from a primary school of Samalisthan, he joined Setidevi Lower Secondary School at Salupati. Then, his family had sent him to the adjoining village of Shangutar for his secondary-level education. He studied at Himganga Secondary School.

“I had hired a room at Shangutar and stayed there with my maternal cousins. We used to take food items and other essential things from home,” he says. Born in a rural middle-class family, he had to carry out daily household chores such as fetching fodder and fuel-wood from jungles. He also would graze cattle on farmlands, forests and pastures on holidays.

During his childhood, he would run very fast. “I used to run so fast that I would reach my school within 20 minutes, while others had to walk for 45 minutes,” he recalls. Despite being obedient and careful during his childhood, he had once fallen off from a tree. “I had led a well-disciplined life. We could not speak anything in front of our father. But we had no problem with our mother,” he says. His family had been one of the respected ones in the village. His grandfather had worked as a Dittha, a government employee. Having been served the Nepal Army for about 10 years, his father also returned to the village following the demise of his grandfather. Although his family has already been migrated to Sarlahi, his father still commands social respect in the ancestral village of Salu. When he passed his School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination in 1985, he started working as a primary teacher in his village school. After experiencing the teaching profession for a couple of months, he came to Kathmandu and joined the Nepal Law Campus.
“I was keenly interested to come to the capital city for higher studies in law, but my father wanted me to continue to work in the village. To be honest, I fled from home and started pursuing my Intermediate of Law,” he says. Since he had seen more opportunities in Kathmandu, he had taken the bold and appropriate decision. “If I had not taken that decision, I would have been working as a primary teacher in the village,” he adds.

His relatives would also suggest him that he should not have quit his job as a teacher. With the help of his relatives, he got a job when he was studying I. L. second year. “In the beginning, I began working with an auditor’s firm in Kathmandu,” he says. Then, he was offered a part-time job with a trekking company. As he gained hands-on experience from the companies in less than six months, started becoming more confident, he decided to establish his own company. In 1990, he opened Sherpa Shangri-La Treks & Expeditions (P) Ltd. “But I did not divert any group of the companies where I had worked,” he says.

The promising entrepreneur started working with a US-based Alpine Ascent International when he met with Todd Burleson, renowned international climber and president of the American adventure tour company in 1988. “Since the beginning, our company and Alpine Ascent have been working smoothly. Alpine Ascent has trusted us fully,” he says.

He says that satisfying clients is key to success in any business. “Since we offer personalized services to clients, we have not received any complaint from them. He says that his company’s business has been promoted by words of mouth of the clients. His company handles just around 100 plus clients annually. According to him, about 175 climbers have, so far, made it to the summit of Mount Everest. His company handles expeditions to several mountains, including Everest, Lhotse, Manaslu, Ama Dablam, Burutse, among others. Another noteworthy aspect is that not a single climber or trekker or staff member of the company has lost his/her life until now. “We do not compromise with services. We pay much attention to safety and security of clients,” He says that his company focuses on quality of tourists rather than numbers. The company has yet to face any problem related to workers. “I feel proud that porters wait for our groups at the trek start points.”

He says that the company has developed a mechanism to provide incentives to guides, assistant guides, porters and cooks. He suggests that the government should come up with policies that are more tourism-friendly considering its unlimited prospects in Nepal. Regarding the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY-2011), he says that the government should have come forward with concrete plans to make the event a success. “It is a matter of concern that the government has not thought of building up necessary infrastructures even in major tourist areas,” Despite the growing flow of trekkers and nature lovers to the Annapurna region, the government does not have any policy to encourage entrepreneurs to establish eco-friendly lodges even in the buffer zone of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), and other areas such as Lobuche and Thame.

Jiban is a lucky as well as hardworking person. He had tied his nuptial knot with Durga K.C. in the early 1990s. The happy couple has one son and one daughter. Their son Sapan Ghimire has been studying B.B.S. in the United States, while daughter Sapana is studying Hotel Management at the 11th grade at Trinity International College. His parents have been living in Sarlahi. But it is sad that he has lost two of his brothers.

The widely traveled entrepreneur has visited many countries, including America, Canada, India, South Korea, South Africa & China. He loves Korean & Thai food, plays tennis. Apart from this, he is equally interested in social activities and has contributed to the social sector. He has been carrying out his responsibility as a local coordinator of the Sherpa Education Fund instituted by Alpine Ascent. The project has been giving quality education to 20 needy Sherpa children from the Khumbu region.

He is also contributing to producing skilled hands for mountaineering. With the support of American climbers [Khumbu Climbing School - USA] the Khumbu Climbing Centre has been established at Phortse of Solukhumbu district. “Since internationally recognized instructors are teaching at the institute, Nepal will have more skilled hands for the mountaineering sector,
The institute conducts classes on basic climbing course.

He says that there will be no tourism without peace and political stability in the country. Showing his concern over the pathetic condition of the national flag carrier—Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), he asks the government and other concerned parties to be serious about improving its condition.

Like most of the Nepalese people, he is also concerned about the deteriorating political situation of the country. “Let’s hope that the political parties will keep their promises by not calling for any strike and bandhs in 2011,” he says.

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