An update on the Tourism Cares Nepal Recovery Fund
Contrasting truths hold for Nepal today. Large parts of the country were unaffected by the April 25 disaster. Many trekking routes and cultural monuments were similarly untouched, and after some early assessments of structures and trails, there is an increasing call to return to Nepal – that it is safe to do so, and indeed, it may be the best way to help.
Yet there remains a stark reality for thousands. Whole communities remain in rubble during the monsoon; the relief agency coalition InterAction reports 500,000 homes damaged, 864,000 people in immediate need in remote areas, and 31,607 schools damaged. Livelihoods and families are at risk, especially those based on tourism, which accounted for 8% of the economy; there is concern for a possible drop in visitation, as well as workforce brain drain.
This update to the Tourism Cares community shares some of what we have learned thus far and our thinking on how we can best help. Informed by local companies and organizations, our approach will be further refined after a mid-August research and planning visit by our Nepal program lead, Mike Rea, CEO. For those who donated, thank you! Your support is helping us spearhead a range of efforts to bring Nepal back to market as soon as possible, and to strengthen tourism in the long term. Our priorities include:
1. Helping Tourism Come Back Bigger and Better: investing in new, sustainable and equitable tourism development.
We want to not just restore Nepal’s tourism but, using this unique window for change, to take steps to expand and improve it, leveraging new resources and interest.
One promising partnership is with SAMARTH, a project to diversify and grow trekking opportunities, and to directly use tourism for community development and reducing poverty. They are champions of the Great Himalaya Trail and have a long-term plan for boosting infrastructure and community development. With SAMARTH and others, we will find the ways in which we can make the greatest difference for Nepal tourism’s future.
2. The Best Way to Help Nepal is to Visit Nepal: promoting the ten months leading up to the quake’s first anniversary as a uniquely meaningful window in which to visit.
Darrell Wade, co-founder of Intrepid Travel, perhaps said it best, in a blog post following a recent visit to Nepal: “Yes, further aid dollars will help . . . but the best thing we can do now is actually visit Nepal. Tourism is the biggest employer in the country and has a far greater footprint than just those directly employed by the industry.”
The industry has started to assess the state of tourism infrastructure and safety conditions for affected areas. For example, many popular trekking routes are either undamaged or reopened, and additional surveying is being done. We will continue to follow the situation, especially following the monsoon. The US Tour Operations Association and Adventure.travel list trips, and veteran operators whose trips have a philanthropic component include Ace the Himalaya, Crooked Trails, World Expeditions, G Adventures and Intrepid, which is donating its 2015-16 profits for recovery.
As noted in the PATA report, it is an especially meaningful time to visit: for Nepal, you can “be a part of our recovery; be a part of our community.”
Our early plans for promoting a safe and responsible return to Nepal include (1) supporting the education component of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s Adventure Week, scheduled for mid-October; (2) exploring ways to make tourism, giving and volunteering during the recovery responsible; and (3) raising awareness among our partners in North America, including USTOA, NTA, ASTA and travel agent consortia, and the industry media.
3. Helping the industry give better and smarter to Nepal and to disasters.
A supporting goal for the Fund is to help our industry give better for Nepal and in the future.
Nepal was the focus of a June 11 webinar on the situation and on effective disaster giving, featuring Disney Citizenship, Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, the Sandals Foundation, the Treadright Foundation, Tauck World of Giving, and the global relief association, InterAction. Survey findings include: 81% of responding travel companies made a contribution to Nepal, and there was a good range of recipients for that giving, with the Chandra Gurung Conservation Trust, Kiva and other specialized nonprofits supplementing the Red Cross (21% of respondents) and other large multinationals (14%). Importantly, 47% of companies said that, if given the right information on needs and impact, they would make a new contribution to the recovery phase.
Our plans include a global mission of travel foundation/philanthropy leaders to visit Nepal (tentatively mid-October), with the goals of (1) examining the situation and investments first-hand, (2) using this learning experience to develop customized corporate disaster giving playbooks, and (3) sharing stories of the recovery back at home and around the world, to shape the narrative for a new Nepal.
Thank you to the many organizations who have informed our early thinking and trip preparation, including those in the travel industry (e.g. PATA, ATTA, tour operators) and from non-governmental organizations (e.g. VSO, the World Wildlife Fund, Next Generation Nepal).
Thank you to the 220 companies and individuals, from 150 travel organizations, who have contributed a total of $85,000 to-date to the Fund; special thanks to top donors the Travel Corporation, TripMate, CheapOair, A&K Philanthropy and MaCher.
We want to hear from you and all those in our community who care for Nepal. Please send your comments, questions and ideas to Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org).