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Published on : Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Two months after the devastating earthquake shook Nepal, Responsible Travel’s member tour operators have stepped up their commitment to local communities by jointly raising over half a million pounds for various aid, health and infrastructure projects across the country.
Tourism is the largest source of foreign exchange in Nepal, with 800,000 visitors in 2014 and forms at least 2% of its GDP. The industry also provides employment to more than 750,000 people in a country where the unemployment rate is more than 45%.
With this in mind Responsible Travel is offering its members based in Nepal a 50% discount on their membership to ensure they can continue to market their trips to tourists worldwide, supporting the resurrection of the local tourism industry.
Long-time Responsible Travel member Exodus Travel have raised over £200,000 so far, and working with HAMWWA (High Altitude Welfare Workers Association) have been focussing on ensuring aid is reaching remote villages which may have otherwise been overlooked by other relief efforts.
Another particularly successful campaign comes from Intrepid, a member of Responsible Travel since 2001, who raised over AUD$122,000 in the first two days of their appeal on behalf of NGO Plan International. The Intrepid campaign has now raised over AUD$400,000 and the company has launched their own ‘Namaste Nepal’ campaign via their charity, the Intrepid Foundation, with plans to have raised over AUD$1m through trip bookings and donations by the end of the next trekking season.
However it’s not only the large tour operators making a difference. Uncover the World’s very personal appeal for help to repair their local team’s damaged homes and possessions has reached almost £5,000 and Kathmandu-based Social Tours Nepal have raised over US$20,000 via their charity, the Karma Foundation, as well as collecting an estimated US$30,000 worth of supplies to distribute to those in need of immediate aid.
Nepali member Manakamana Treks and Expeditions have also now launched a new volunteering trip with the aim to provide both physical and financial support to rebuild homes and schools in Kakithok Village, where they were one of the first aid teams to arrive.
Commenting on the role the tourism industry has to play in Nepal’s recovery; managing director of Responsible Travel Justin Francis says “With so many Nepali’s dependent on tourism for everyday income, we must now be careful that another tragedy doesn’t follow swiftly on the heels of the first.
“Many small, local tourism businesses will not have enough reserves to weather an extended period of no income, and the dramatic decline in tourism will spell disaster all over again for the local people and families dependent on them.
“It becomes vitally important that tourists don’t abandon Nepal and that they and external tour operators continue to support the country. We are extremely proud to be working with both international and local tour operators with such a strong commitment to the communities in which they work.
Justin Francis also adds “I went to Thailand 3 weeks after the Indian Ocean tsunami, and when I spoke with local people they told me ‘please tell the tourists to come back’”.