Demand for regular tourism packages is long gone; today’s travellers want to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of the places they are visiting. Rightly, the Visit Nepal Year 2020 carries the tagline, ‘lifetime experiences’. In this edition of B360, we identified a few tourism entrepreneurs and companies working to deliver on this promise.
The Great Karnali Quest
The Great Karnali Quest is set to be a world class event for rafting and kayaking enthusiasts and will have the participation of the world’s best national teams and world-class athletes. Karnali River is considered to be one of the five best rivers in the world; the most pristine and free-flowing river of Nepal; and the rarest river in terms of geology, bio-diversity, ecology and culture. The event will be held from 25-30 November and will be the longest rafting race in the world covering a distance of 242 kms demonstrating to rafters a lifetime experience along with discovery about the indigenous culture of the Karnali region.
On November 25, a grand puja will be held on the occasion of Maha Ekasadhi at Dailekh and the five-day event will start from Dailekh and finish at Tikapur. At every camp, participants will encounter different cultures of the indigenous tribes of the Karnali region who will showcase their unique culture, food and hospitality. The event has also been included in the top lifetime experiences list for the Visit Nepal 2020 tourism campaign.
This idea was germinated by Nepal River Conservation Trust. Different rafting organisations like Nepal Association of Rafting Agencies and Himalayan River Guide Association Nepal along with rafting companies and agencies will extend their hands for this event. “We will also be getting support from Karnali province and we want to talk to Sudurpashchim province and Province 5 as well because the Karnali River goes through these two provinces as well. We want to include all the provinces as well as Government of Nepal, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and Nepal Tourism Board so that we can work together as a team to make this event happen successfully,” Megh Ale, President, Nepal River Conservation Trust states.
Established in 2006, Off-Road Nepal, a sister company of Bikers Nepal, has been conducting off-road motorcycle tours based on customer preference for more than a decade. The company focuses on finding and taking their customers on new routes and trails with astounding scenic views and stunning surroundings so that they can feel the essence of Nepal while riding free like a bird on their motorcycles.
Off-Road Nepal offers tours ranging from a single day tour to eleven days, from exploring the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley (Chisapani-Nagarkot) to riding to some of the most challenging off-road trails of Nepal like Manang, Mustang and Upper-Mustang. The company operates these tours to promote adventure sports tourism in Nepal.
All riders are briefed about safety procedures, proper riding gear and techniques about group rides. They are also taught off-road skills to ride in such terrain. “Our tours bond the man and the machine; they are always fun and priceless memories and strong friendship are formed with fellow bikers,” says Nikhil Thakuri, Business Development Manager, Bikers Nepal.
The tour company hosts both domestic and international tourists and individuals can use their own bike or hire it from Off-Road Nepal.
Backstreet Academy is an online travel platform established in March 2014 offering handcrafted experiences to travellers. Jamon Mok, one of the three co-founders of the company, came up with the idea when he was learning the basics of wood mask craving from a Thamel based artisan during his visit to Kathmandu. He along with Anil and Akash Gurung started the company with Kathmandu as their first location. Today, the company has its programs spread across the eight South Asian countries and 40 cities including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
In Nepal, Backstreet Academy is working with over 50 hosts in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Popular programs being the secret food tour, wood carving workshop, Thangka painting class, monkey temple tour with a monk and Khukuri making workshop. Participants are actually in the workshop, kitchen or house of the hosts and are made to actively participate and not just observe. This helps to draw attention to the customs of places, lifestyle of people, knowhow of the traditional values and skills, and connects people of different cultures through these experiences.
Ice Hockey and Skating at Gokyo Lake
The idea of playing ice hockey and skating at the Gokyo Lake was inspired by how winter sports can be introduced in the country as a tourism product. “We chose Gokyo Lakes because it is in the Everest region and freezes for 4-5 months every year,” says Dawa Sherpa on behalf of the Visit Nepal 2020 Secretariat. He adds, “When things are done for the first time, it needs to catch the attention of people. We thought of doing it in a place which is iconic and recognisable and Everest has had that global brand value.” The Secretariat has invited few lake skating experts in December to conduct feasibility and safety tests. In February 2020, the Secretariat will invite ice hockey players for an exhibition match.
“If this project is a success in one region, it can be replicated in other regions as well like Manang and Mustang,” says Sherpa. “Activities like snowshoeing and cross country skiing can also be promoted in the Western part of Nepal as heavy snow occurs in that region during winter.”
In the initial stages, only a few teams will play against each other because it’s purely a Visit Nepal project, not open for commercial tourism and the Secretariat isn’t planning to make this project a global event right from the word go. It wants to ensure that the initial event is properly and safely conducted, find out if the lake is sustainable for organising ice hockey and skating events in the future, and wants to analyse the environmental impacts of such events. Local youths will also be participating and learning from this experience in the initial event. The kits for the local teams will be contributed by the sponsors.
“The idea of this project is that we want to teach the local community about running this sort of programme or events. They will see the commercial benefits from the initial stage and in the near future can run it by themselves,” states Sherpa.
To promote this, the Secretariat has contacted a famous American lake skater and is also bringing an influencer from the ice skating world to Nepal who is a cinematographer for these type of events. “We are going very specifically into the ice skating world and are bringing in specialised journalists, v-loggers and influencers who will promote this event in their own sporting community,” highlights Sherpa. Besides this, the project-related Ministries are also heavily involved as is the Department of Wildlife and Forestry.