By Mike Rea
WHERE DOES NEPAL FIT in your tourism life? Have you been? Do you send clients there? Do you ever want to go? And after the earthquake last April, did you make a donation to help out? Please read on if your answer is ”Yes,” “I wish” or even “I want to know what tourism can accomplish after a crisis.”
For that is the story we can now tell as we approach the first anniversary of the Gorkha earthquake, which killed 8,617, injured 16,808 and displaced 2.8 million Nepalese. Tourism Cares, as the charitable community of the travel and tourism industry, acted quickly after the disaster, launching the Nepal Recovery Fund, which gathered more than US$85,000 in contributions from 220 donors, such as The Travel Corporation, Alexander+Roberts, Globus and Abercrombie & Kent.
Our stories and lessons from Nepal are divided into two related parts: how visiting the country can uniquely support communities, companies and travelers during the recovery phase, and how tourism’s collective philanthropy can help the industry—and the traveler experience—bounce back better than before.
As a travel professional and influencer, consider this: Today is one of the best and most meaningful times ever to visit Nepal. Crowds are low along famous treks, discounts are available at attractions and the U.S. State Department recently lifted the travel advisory that had been in place since the earthquake.
Yet what supercharges the Nepal experience is what else you can experience only now: the inspiration of the recovery. Tourism accounts for 400,000-plus jobs in Nepal and about 10 percent of its GDP. The welcome you receive bythe famously hospitable people will be especially warm. A trip to Nepal in 2016, beginning with the earthquake anniversary in April, can be especially meaningful. There are “Wisdom Wednesdays,” hosted at a pub in the Kathmandu neighborhood of Thamel by local nonprofit Next Generation Nepal; it includes speakers on ethical tourism and volunteering.
You can even be a part of the recovery, as research from Tourism Cares shows that giving and volunteering during travel enhances trip satisfaction. So travelers should consider a service trip, using a company committed to rebuilding and giving back to Nepal (e.g., Crooked Trails). Any trip will help sustain jobs, and you’ll create extra benefit if you pick a rebuilding trek to the Langtang or Gorkha regions that were especially hard hit.
The greatest power we have for change is our business and clients. So think about Nepal and what you can do to help tourists return.
Our value to Nepal’s future is far from done. There’s also the power of philanthropic investments, especially ones linked to our business. The goal of the Nepal Recovery Fund is to support tourism during the recovery phase and to invest in the renewal phase afterward. As tourism returns, we want it to benefit more people and produce an even richer experience. This is a vision that only the Tourism Cares community will tackle, and we’ve had some neat successes:
• We partnered with the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management to offer a special training and certificate for lodge and tea house owners and managers displaced by the quake.
• With Seeing Hands Nepal, a massage clinic, we supported the training for another five visually impaired massage therapists, fostering a direct link to the tourism economy.
• On behalf of our contributors and media partners, we supported tour operator disaster preparedness trainings with the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
• We have promoted effective volunteering in the wake of crisis. This was all made possible by you: NTA supporters, friends of Tourism Cares and the tourism industry itself. It is the magic of Tourism Cares, which is far more than your standard charity.
So thank you for what we have done to support Nepal and what we can do.
Mike Rea is the CEO of Tourism Cares. This post first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Courier magazine.