How small tourism businesses in Nepal are turning more professional

Adventure seekers
from around the world are drawn to the region
of Pokhara in Nepal. The magnificent Himalayan landscape offers visitors sensational possibilities, from trekking up a mountainside to sailing high above it… Pokhara is also one of
the world’s top paragliding destinations. But while Pokhara
is rich in natural beauty, decent work is very hard to come by. And what work there is,
is often “informal”, much of it lesser paid and regular employment is rare. Pokhara’s booming tourism industry, representing a majority
of the region’s economy, is no exception. But that’s beginning to change… thanks to the work of
the Pokhara Tourism Council. With help from
the International Labour Organization and the Government of Japan, the Pokhara Tourism Council
extended capacity building for tourism enterprises and lead local tourism
promotional campaigns. They use the Internet and printed materials
for tourism promotion in the region. The project also helps Pokhara’s
many informal tourist operators and guide services make the transition to become “formal” businesses
and employers. [Som Bahadu Thapa:] “The main objective
of the Pokhara Tourism Council is to coordinate among
the tourism-related organizations, to dialogue with the local government
to target problems and coordinate with each other. At the same time we do promotion. We have set up a number
of promotion activities.” Through the Council, 500 local people have been
trained in business and financial skills, some even getting access
to credit to help their business grow. The result? Small businesses catering
to tourists are now better organized, more professional
and their services are more valuable. Sarwati was trained to become
a certified and formal trekking guide. [Sarwati Thapa Kalka:] “Without having
this training we are not professional guides, but when you have the training, you become a professional guide. We know all the things, we learned about geography,
culture, nature, history. We gained a lot, so we can give lots of briefing
about these subjects to the guests.” The new way of doing business
is getting good reviews: [Justin Button:]
“We are going trekking and just having a look around
the town and enjoying the culture. It’s very well set up. It’s very easy to arrange everything for
trekking. It’s a great place to come after a trek
and relax. And to make sure the small businesses
keep going and keep learning, the Council set up a “help desk” to offer ongoing advice and best practices. [Prakash Sharma:]
“They provide registration support, capacity building support, linking with the banking
and credit access. They are also providing capacities
for designing and linking with the markets.” As more and more visitors
come to enjoy what Pokhara has to offer, local people who rely on tourism
for their livelihoods are more secure in the knowledge
they have the skills and support to keep their businesses running,
and flying high, for many years to come.

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