Interview with TIES Member Himalayan Smile Trekking

Interview with TIES Member Himalayan Smile Trekking

Ecotourism in Nepal


An Interview with TIES Member Himalayan Smile Trekking

Himalayan Smile Treks and Adventures is a locally owned and managed trekking company established by a team of professionals who have long years of experience in travel, trekking, tour and adventure activities in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. Their mission is to provide the best service possible to guests while being environmentally, socially and economically responsible. Their trekking expeditions do not disturb the ecological balance of environment and synthesizes with a concept of environment, economy and success to future generations. 



How has the earthquake affected the tourism industry in Nepal?


As the earthquake on April 25th, 2015 was near the end of the high season, it did not affect the tourism industry in Nepal much at first. Although, some trips in early May to June had to be canceled or postponed.


Most of the damage and loss of life was in Langtang region, where a lot of trekkers, especially backpackers and individiual trekkers lost their lives. Those who were injured had to be evacuated by helicopters. To date, a lot of trekkers, guides, porters, as well as local villagers are still missing.


Other parts of Nepal like Annapurna, Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and far west Nepal remain safe for trekking but the news and publicity caused travelers to think that Nepal is unsafe.


This news has greatly affected the trekking this autumn season, as it Nepal's high season.  Now, the numbers of tourists have tremendously dwindled because of the earthquake and the recent political blockade at the Nepal / India border.


While most of the larger leading trekking and travel companies have survived with an average number of trekkers and visitors, many of the smaller companies have been badly affected, as these are the agencies that mostly deal with walk-in clients and online sales when tourist destinations like Thamel, Pokhara, and Chitwan used to be crowded and fully overbooked.


The guides, porters, and many others who work in the tourism industry are in a desperate situation, as tourism is the backbone and main economy of the country.


Why is it important for travelers to go now to Nepal?


It is very important that travelers should make their holiday destination in Nepal.  Besides its natural beauty, culture, and historical heritage monuments, Nepal is famous as a friendly and hospitable country where travelers feel safe even in remote areas and are greeted with warm, cheerful smiles.


Nepal is a country abound with pristine and natural environments where one can find relief from the hectic chores of modern life.  People visit Nepal not just for its beauty and culture, but to be free for a while on a retreat that refreshes the mind, body and soul.


Since Nepal is a developing country, traveling here will be a big support to the poor economy and will help bring the country back to normalcy after the devastating earthquake.  This will bring employment and active business so that young people do not have to go abroad to find jobs.  Remaining in their own country will help support the welfare of their families and villagers.


So it is very important that travelers should make Nepal their holiday destination to improve the standard and way of life of Nepalese people. Jobs from the tourism trade will certainly help in a big way to support the economy of the country.

responsible tourism in Annapurna regionHow can tourism help with recovery efforts?


Tourism plays a vital role supporting the daily life of all Nepalese people who are totally dependent on the tourism industry directly or in directly.  It can uplift of the standard of the people, including the villages along the trekking routes.


Besides tourism professionals, the government benefits from tourism income as this is the only foreign currency source apart from the few products that Nepal exports to other countries.


Without the help of tourism, the Nepalese economy will slump down, as there are more than thousands of people involved in this field including hotels, lodges, resorts and restaurants, as well as many shops and artisanal handicrafts.


If more tourists visit Nepal, it will certainly uplift the economy and the balance of life so that the young people do not have to go abroad for jobs.


Travelers can visit Nepal to enjoy its picturesque scenery of the high Himalayas, rolling green hills, valleys, rivers, rafting, trekking, mountain biking, jungle safaris, and other adventure sports and leisure activities. A visit to Nepal with a cause is important to lend a hand to the earthquake affected villages and to bring back the smiles to these people.


How has Himalayan Smile Treks helped with recovery efforts, if any?


We are appealing to all our guests that Nepal is safe to travel in most parts and we are organizing farm trips, normal trekking, peak climbing and other adventure sports with a high aim in Responsible Travel.  


Besides our normal trips, we have made a strong effort in organizing treks to rebuild Nepal. We have designed the itineraries and programs in heavily affected areas for the cause in building schools, walking trails, temples, monasteries and some damaged houses.  We have informed all our guests and new travelers to visit Nepal for the cause to rebuild in whatever way they can help, with the main purpose of visiting the most affected areas and helping the villagers to rebuild their homes and communities.  Travelers in turn will enjoy the harmony of the beautiful Himalayan scenery and learn the cultural, ceremonial and simple way of life by adding a brick on the wall.


What ecotourism and sustainable tourism activities are Himalayan Smile involved in?


We are deeply engrossed in the safety and welfare of our guests, staff, and porters, as well as in practicing ecotourism and responsible tourism, which we understand as respecting and benefiting the local people and the environment during route trekking.


The idea and theme is to bring our guests closer to local cultures and environments and provide in-depth knowledge of the country, as well as involve the local people in the industry.  Mindful of the fragility of the natural environment, our aim is to "take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints" when introducing visitors to this small, green Himalayan jewel that is Nepal.


Our expert guides and staff have full knowledge of the ecosystem and encourage our travelers to bring the rubbish and unwanted to proper places for disposal, respect the local cultures and religions they encounter, and to take all batteries and non biodegradables including plastic items, back to their own home countries as this stuff is harmful to the fragile environment.


Himalayan Smile Treks and AdventuresOur responsible initiatives include conducting all our trips without any disturbance to the local ecology and environment.  We always hire local guides and staff who have good knowledge and experience on the trekking trail and of the area, flora and fauna, mountains, and culture.  We are equipped with a team of dedicated professionals and supported by an excellent infrastructure that is committed to offering the very best. We also provide opportunities such as employment and redistribution of income in the far flung corners of the country. The awe-inspiring mountain views, colorful religious festivals, vibrant cultural traditions, and most importantly the charm and gracious hospitality of the people, opens the doors to this hidden area and bids visitors a warm welcome.  We always make a priority for local products including vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy products, and handicrafts.


We encourage our guests to respect local cultures and traditions by following Nepalese norms and religious respect in temples, monasteries, and other shrines and monuments.  We advise our guests to wear appropriate dress especially when visiting holy sites and against nude bathing in rivers and lakes which a great offense to local communities and culture.  We contribute 10% of our profit generated from each trip towards social activities, reforestation schemes, educational programs and projects that strengthen and uplift the life of local people.

In addition, during camping treks, we use kerosene for cooking purposes.  We don't use firewood to save the fragile environment.  We always leave the campsites neat and tidy, free from litter and garbage, and toilet tents are kept away rivers and other water sources. 


What can travelers do to be more responsible during their stay in Nepal?


Much as already been mentioned; however, travelers are advised to respect the cultural and religious norms and being environmentally friendly.  Every traveler has a role to play in being a green traveler and we suggest adopting the following ethics.


Pollution and waste management is a huge problem throughout the world.  In Nepal, the disposal systems are inadequate and recycling of plastics is limited.  We suggest avoiding plastic packaging where possible and using your own bag when shopping.  Plastic bags will be offered for everything. Don't be shy to tell them that it isn't needed.  When trekking, many travelers take an extra plastic bag to pick up any rubbish that they see to improve the area.  It's a good practice because the rubbish has to be carried until a suitable disposal place is found.


Bottled water is available in all tourist places in Nepal, but unfortunately there are few facilities for recycling the bottles. Please try and minimize the water of plastic water bottles.  Carry water bottles with water purification tablets or iodine to purify drinking water.  At many mountain lodges there is purified boiled water that you can use to refill your bottle for a small fee.


The natural environment is also very important.  While in the bush (jungle) you need to make sure your human waste is buried away from waterways.  Burying or carrying out used toilet paper is a must.  Sanitary pads must be taken out of the area and disposed of appropriately.


Local meals and good are part of the joy of the traveling experience. This also supports the local economy by not importing foreign foods.


Taking photography is one of the joyful parts of traveling.  Please ask permission before taking photographs or videos of people.  Respect their custom and attitude, travelers should avoid paying to take photos as it encourages begging.  Instead, if you take photos, send them back the copies through the travel company or directly the people.


Buy handicrafts and art directly from the craftsman in local villages when you can, rather than from fancy shops or department stories.  This will help maintain a better price.


A strong piece of advice is to not purchase endangered flora or fauna products that may be offered for sale.  Avoid illegal trade by not purchasing them.


Please do not give money, pens or sweets to the local children in the villages, as it promotes a 'begging culture'. If you wish to give, consult with your guide, and he will take you to visit the local schools and nonprofits.  There you can handover items to teachers and social leaders who will redistribute to those people who need them.


We also collect clean usable clothing and trekking gear from travelers at the end of a trip, for distribution to needy communities. If you want to leave anything after your trip, please consult with our guide and office staff.


Finally, we suggest traveling around Nepal and the Himalayan region using only reputed, government authorized and licensed travel companies who follow the rules and norms of responsible tourism.





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