Weekly Official e-Newsletter of Nepal Tourism Board
(Printable version)
May 25, 2012
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Watanabe breaks her own record
Telling the tale of a rhino rescuer
Homestays Boost Tourism in Rural Nepal
Celebrating 5th International Sagarmatha Day

Watanabe breaks her own record

A 73-year-old Japanese woman has set the world record for being the oldest female to conquer Mount Everest, Kyodo news agency reported.

Tamae Watanabe reached the 29,029-foot peak of the world's tallest mountain Saturday morning after launching her assent Friday night from an altitude of 27,231 feet.

Watanabe's accomplishment broke her own record of being the oldest woman to scale Mount Everest. In May 2002, she reached the top of the mountain at the age of 63.

The 73-year-old embarked on her latest expedition last month but weather conditions forced her to twice delay her assent to the summit.

"Several climbers abandoned summit plans in the past weeks due to bad weather," Nepalese Tourism Ministry spokesman Tilak Pandey said.

Watanabe, a retired office worker from Yamanashi prefecture, 73 miles west of Tokyo, is one of two Japanese septuagenarian women who attempted Mount Everest this climbing season. The other woman, 72-year-old Eiko Funahashi, gave up summit plans due to health concerns.

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest man to conquer Mount Everest is Nepal's Min Bahadur Sherchan who made it to the top in May 2008 at the age of 76. American Jordan Romero holds the record for the youngest person to successfully climb the mountain. The Californian teen scaled Mount Everest in 2010, at the age of 13.

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Telling the tale of a rhino rescuer

In the winter of 1978, Hemanta Mishra led the king of Nepal deep into the country’s Chitwan forest and helped him shoot down a greater one-horned Asian rhinoceros, one of Nepal’s most endangered animal species.

And yet, for 40 years, Mishra has been one of Nepal’s foremost wildlife


Just five years earlier, he had helped convert the Chitwan forests into a national park and sanctuary for tigers and rhinos.

But organising the ritual rhino hunt was the king’s command, and Mishra could have defied it only at the cost of his work as a conservationist in Nepal.

“If I had refused, I would not have been able to save the rest of the rhino population in my country,” says Mishra, 67, who describes this moral dilemma in his non-fiction book, The Soul of the Rhino, launched in India earlier this month. Co-authored by American writer Jim Ottaway Jr, the book was published in the US in 2008. Mishra, a native Nepali who grew up in Kathmandu and studied forestry in Dehradun’s Indian Forest College, is credited with halting the extinction of the rhinoceros and tiger in his homeland and boosting Nepal’s wildlife tourism industry. His book portrays this journey through his experiences with Nepali kings and governments, tribals and scientists and the clash between the East and the West.

In Nepal and across Asia and Africa, for instance, the rhino is a sacred animal, revered for the same magical properties that see it hunted for everything from its horn to its testicles and tail.

“My Western education taught me that ancient superstitions must be shed,” says Mishra, who has lived in Washington DC for 20 years, where he retired about five years ago as an environment specialist for the World Bank. “But I also understood that traditions and culture have tremendous importance for my people.” So, over 20 years as a wildlife advisor to the Nepal government and then director of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, Mishra and his team of conservationists worked to create national parks, lobby for anti-poaching laws and set up infrastructure for wildlife tourism. “Our kings already had the political will to preserve forests and animals so that they could continue their royal hunts,” says Mishra. “The challenge was to transfer this passion for shooting from the gun to the camera.”

Mishra also worked with local residents and villagers to raise awareness.

“Villagers saw the rhino as a pest, endangering crops and lives,” says Mishra. “We showed them how preservation of rhinos and their habitat could save their land from degradation, and how tourism could earn them money.”

Eventually, thanks to their efforts, the rhino population in Chitwan rose from less than 100 in 1968 to more than 500 in 1990, with rhinos also transported to forests across Nepal and abroad, including four to Uttar Pradesh.

Now, civil unrest is threatening their numbers again. Since the start of the Nepalese Civil War in 1995 and the end of monarchy in 2001, says Mishra, unrest has made it very difficult to implement laws, control poaching. By 2005, the rhino population in the Chitwan park had dropped to 300. Today, illicit trade in rhino horns and organs continues across Asia and Africa.

“It is not enough for just one government to have laws against this,” says Mishra. “It will stop only when many governments act together.”

(Courtesy: The Hindustan Times)

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Homestays Boost Tourism in Rural Nepal

Photo: Nepal Travel Blog
by Tara Bhattarai

Some of the homes in Patlekhet are not just residences. With clean and furnished rooms, certain homes here also serve as small guesthouses, a part of the village’s Ecotourism Home Stay Program.

“We are enthusiastic to welcome tourists in every house,” says Keshab Badal, president of the local ecotourism homestay program.

"You are welcome to our small houses."
- Keshab Badal, president of Patlekhet Ecotourism Home Stay Program

Patlekhet is a small town in Kavre, a district that neighbors Kathmandu. Popular for tourists, the village provides an escape from the capital city. Fog often blankets the green fields. But when the fog disappears, the majestic view of the Himalayas arrests the eyes of visitors.

“In order to promote the view of the Himalayas, as well as our local art and culture, we have started this homestay program,” Badal says.

There are no hotels or restaurants in Patlekhet, a village far away from modernization. Instead, there are clusters of traditional houses built from mud and stones. Narrow, muddy lanes lead from one house to another.

About 20 of these houses are especially designated for tourists who visit Patlekhet, with 50 beds available for guests. Badal says the village has welcomed some 200 foreign tourists since the program began.

Love Green Nepal, a local nongovernmental organization, initiated the program in 2010. Love Green Nepal has been operating for 20 years, guiding communities in six of Kavre’s village development committees on education, health, biogas and income-generation programs. Banking on the majestic view of the Himalayas, the organization formed a group to promote tourism as well as benefit locals, says Gore Kaji Sangat, executive director of Love Green Nepal.

The program welcomed a group of Japanese students for a week as its first guests. Love Green Nepal initially helped the village to bring in tourists, but now the locals are active in recruiting visitors, Sangat says.

“The tourists are very happy with the hospitality of the locals,” Sangat says.

Local music welcomes the tourists to the village. They stay with families, eat home-grown vegetables, take tours of the area and learn about its traditions. Before they leave, they receive local souvenirs to take home.

“We welcome and satisfy the guests as far as we can,” Badal says.

The program has also become a source of income generation for local women.

Women, whose days revolve around agriculture and household chores, are happy to engage with tourists and welcome them, says Kamali Tamang, treasurer of Love Green Nepal. The women also benefit from the program economically without incurring much extra work. Hosting guests only requires some additional cooking and cleaning.

“It’s actually an easy job for women,” Tamang says gleefully.

And the people of Patkelkhet aren’t the only ones in Nepal opening their homes to tourists. Registered with the Nepal Tourism Board, the program is part of the growing national initiative to promote homestays, Badal says.

A growing number of locals are operating homestay programs in Nepal, offering tourists a window into local culture in areas without hotels as well as boosting socialization and income generation in isolated villages. The rise in homestay programs is the result of a national government initiative to boost tourism. Challenges still exist, such as a lack of funding and marketing. But the government and local residents say they are doing what they can to attract domestic and foreign tourists. There are 164 homestays registered in the Nepal Homestay program, according to the Nepal Tourism Board, a body under Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Studies are underway to start new homestay programs nationwide, says Hari Prasad Bashyal, undersecretary of the board.

Like in Patlekhet, locals of Kapan, a village north of Kathmandu, are also now welcoming visitors through the Gyanmala Women Homestay program.

In Kapan, women wanted to do more than their household chores as well as to get involved in the community. So they registered a nongovernmental organization called Gyanmala Group. They started with cleaning their neighborhood, launching social justice initiatives and organizing skills-based training programs.

The group then developed the homestay program to generate income, says Pampha Shrestha, the secretary for Gyanmala Group’s working committee.

Currently, five homes in Kapan are participating in the homestay program. Ten more homes plan to join the program soon. The area has welcomed 46 guests so far, Shrestha says.

But it’s not only in Patlekhet and Kapan that residents have taken up homestay programs. The trend has been on the rise in various districts across Nepal, including Sankhuwasabha, Lamjung, Chitwan, Syangja and Palpa.

Bashyal posits tourism as a tool for social and economic progress.

After Nepal opened up for tourism in the 1960s with expanded air and communication services and improved road conditions, the nation received an influx of tourists. The country slowly started opening hotels and travel agencies to fulfill the new demands in the tourism industry.

But most hotels and travel agents are located in cities. In order to make tourism accessible to rural communities and to promote income generation there, the Nepali government implemented a homestay policy in 2010, Bashyal says. The policy enables and encourages citizens to ready their houses for tourists and register as homestay facilities.

This policy aims to generate employment in rural areas, raise the standard of living through improved income sources, promote tourism and engage women from indigenous communities. It is free to register, and the earnings are tax-free.

Most Nepalis believe in the local phrase, “Atithi Devo Bhava,” meaning, “The guest is God.” In most of the villages, people still believe this. They welcome guests by cooking a hearty meal and bid farefell to them by putting red vermillion powder on their foreheads, among other hospitable activities. So the culture of the homestay program is nothing new to most people, Bashyal says.

There are two kinds of homestay programs: private and communal. A community homestay requires five or more houses, so private homestays are more popular in cities, says Pradip Kumar Koirala, undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The government policy sets certain standards for homes to qualify as homestays. Local authorities grant permission to community members who comply with these requirements, Koirala says.

The homes should be clean, reflect local culture and be safe from inclement weather, wild animals and bugs. Every homestay must have certain ammenities: a bed with a 6-foot-3-inch mattress, clean linens, blankets, chairs, a dining table, hangers and a bathroom.

One of the members in the house should be able to speak English, Koirala says. The house must also display a menu with the prices clearly visible. But not all of these government standards are feasible in villages like Patlekhet, says Damodar Neupane, a teacher and a member of the homestay program in the village. Still, he says they try their best to meet the requirements. The government-established Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management has also visited the village to provide trainings on health, hygiene and hospitality.

“We are looking at how to make this profession commercial and long-lasting,” Neupane says.

Locals in remote areas stay busy with their daily chores and work and seldomly interact with others outside their villages, especially foreigners. So they are happy to welcome tourists and host them in their homes, Badal says. But the lack of tourists many times disappoints them.

Although the government has a policy for homestays, it hasn’t done anything substantial to promote the program, Badal says. He adds that the government should build infrastructure like roads, electricity and health care facilities in the villages so that they are accessible and attractive to tourists.

“It would be easier for us if the government helped in the promotion,” he says.

Uday Bhattarai, assistant manager at the Nepal Tourism Board, says that the board has been promoting the homestay program in various travel fairs and among tour operators. It uses posters, documents, short documentary films and a website, www.nepalhomestay.org.np.

“There has been a slow progress,” Bhattarai says.

The Nepali government has been promoting tourism with a slogan that stresses hospitality as the base of Nepali culture. In 2011, the government initiated the Nepal Tourism Year, aiming to host 1 million tourists in the country during the year.

On the heels of the decade-long Maoist conflict, the country still faces political instability, and there are often strikes by various political parties. Nepal Tourism Year aimed to send a message around the world that the country is a safe destination, Bashyal says.

The initiative brought nearly 720,000 tourists to Nepal, according to the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. With a target to have 41 percent of the total tourists visit new destinations, the government introduced the homestay program. But the country fell short on this mark as well, Koirala says.

To complete the goals set last year, the government has introduced Visit Lumbini Year 2012 to promote the birthplace of Buddha.

But the Nepal government hasn’t allocated an adequate budget to promote the homestay programs, Bashyal says. The tourism budget, totaling more than 1 billion rupees ($11.4 million), has been allocated for everything from buying airplanes to maintaining airports to paying staff. But the homestay program does not see any of this money.

Koirala says that homestay programs can promote domestic tourism too. But most Nepalis are not accustomed to traveling. More than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, according to UNICEF.

To promote domestic tourism, the government sent 100 of its employees along with their families on paid vacations to visit any three districts in the country. Various tourism festivals in different districts also aim to attract local and international tourists.

The younger generation of Nepalis are also adapting to the travel culture.

Asmita Sharma, an undergraduate student, says she travels with friends during her vacations. She adds that she prefers homestays to hotels because of the homely environment and good food.

“You get to know the different cultures, and it’s not expensive,” Sharma says.

Koirala says many homestay providers prefer Westerners to domestic tourists.

But Badal says that the people in his village treat both domestic and international tourists equally. He also says that if visitors are on a tight budget, the hosts offer discounts.

“If people don’t have money,” he says, “if we can, we also provide them with free food.”

Although homestays boost socio-economic development in remote areas, they may also create risks, says Harihar Pokharel, managing director of Elite Academy, a food and hygiene company based in the United Kingdom.

People and organizations from neighboring countries have long used Nepal as a transit point for crime, and homestays could be a good place for criminals to hide and operate, Pokharel says. Locals may also go into cultural shock when they come into contact with Western culture when foreign tourists come to stay with them.

But Badal says his village is full of hospitable people eager to host tourists.

“You are welcome to our small houses,” Badal says. “Along with cultural exchange, we shall also share some happy and sad stories.”

News courtesy: http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/global-news/asia/nepal/homestays-boost-tourism-rural-nepal?page=4#ixzz1vqzlE0f8

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Celebrating 5th International Sagarmatha Day

Nepal is celebrating 5th International Sagarmatha Day in the various parts of the country to commemorate the ascent on Mt. Everest by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary . For more details, please click the following link.
5th Int'l Sagarmatha Day LEAFLET

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Namche Festival 2012
Date :- 27 -29 May 2012
Venue :- Namche, Solukhumbu
Organizer :- Namche Festival 2012 main Organizing Committee
5th International Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) Day
Date :- 29 May 2012
Venue :- NTB & nationwide
Organizer :- Ministry of Tourism & Civil Aviation, NTB & other tourism associations
Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon ( Highest marathon in the world )
Date :- 29 May 2012
Venue :- Solukhumbu
Start Point :-

Everest Base Camp ( 17,598 ft.)

Finish Point : -

: Namche bazar ( 11306 ft.)

Organizer :- Himalayan Expiditions
The Teechi Festival
Date :- 29-31 May 2012
Venue :- Upper Mustang
Tamang Mahotsav 2069
Date :- 31 May - 2 June 2012
Venue :- Tudikhel, Kathmandu
Organizer :- Nepal National Tamang Ghedung, Kathmandu

Sarad Pradhan     Asst. Editor: Sudhan Subedi

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