One of the biggest obstacles to tourism development in Nepal is the unethical practices of many people in the industry. Not only does this impact on the quality of service provided to tourists but it’s negative effects filter down to hurt the entire industry. With tourism being a primary source of income for the nation it is important that a high level of service and ethical practices be followed to ensure not only the safety of travelers but also that they may have an enjoyable holiday, recommend Nepal to their friends and come back in the future.
One practice in the industry is the use of helicopter rescue to earn commissions. Some companies charge very low prices to clients (prices so low that they are actually making losses) and then they subsequently deliberately cause trekkers to get sick (by tampering with food or serving unhygienic food) and then arrange a helicopter rescue for them. This has a two fold financial benefit for them by firstly allowing them to save the cost of the trekking expenses (food and lodging) for that client for the remainder of the trip and also they will be paid a sizeable commission from the insurance payout on the helicopter rescue.
This practice has a dramatic negative impact on the entire industry. Firstly the charging of unrealistically low prices makes it difficult for companies that are legitimately charging fair prices for high quality service to clients to compete in the market. It also devalues the product offered and promotes the idea that prices for trekking routes should be very low. It also dramatically effects the opinions of trekkers in the long term about the quality and enjoyment of their trekking holiday. The worst thing that could come of this is that trekkers would start to spread word that Nepal is an unsafe and poor holiday location. Such a thing would impact the industry greatly and seriously affect the confidence of visitors in Nepal as a holiday location. And with the prevalence of social media and the increasing popularity of holiday rating aps and websites this is a very real possibility.
Another practice which negatively impacts the entire industry is the illegal sale of trekking packages. Some individuals, NGO’s, trekking guides etc will sell trekking packages to clients without having a valid license to do so. They will be able to do this at lower prices than those offered by legitimate trekking agencies.
This dangerous practice has a negative impact on the entire industry. Again it devalues the product encouraging tourists to think that prices should be unrealistically low. Again it makes it very difficult for legitimate agencies to offer quality service and charge fair prices for their products. Because these people are not paying any taxes, insurances, licenses or association fees it means that the organizations that are responsible for ensuring the growth and maintenance of the tourism industry are not supported. It is also a very dangerous practice as the guides and porters on these trips will not be covered by any industry insurance in the case of accident or problem.
So what is the solution to this? I don’t think that we can ever eliminate unethical practices but we can certainly educate our clients and we can operate our trekking agencies with transparency and integrity thereby encouraging others to do the same. After all the satisfaction of our clients will bring us more in the future and also encourage a healthy and growing tourism industry in the long term.
The following recommendations should be made to prospective clients:
Unfortunately some individuals in the tourism industry do not practice ethical tourism so it is recommended that you do the following before booking your holiday to Nepal:
• Check the credentials of the trekking agency that you are
using. Are they registered with the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal? A quick and
easy check can be done through the TAAN (Trekking Agents Association of Nepal)
website at http://www.taan.org.np/ Not
all agencies are registered with TAAN but you will find that the reputable
agencies will all be members of this association.
• Before booking with a trekking agent read the reviews from their previous clients. Do they have a high level of service and client satisfaction? Do they have positive feedback?
• Get an idea of the legitimacy and stability of the agency. How long have they been in operation? Are the guides that they use experienced? How long have the staff and guides been working for the company?
• Ask your agent to provide details on their insurance policy.
• Make sure that you have adequate health checkups before you travel. Make sure you are fully informed about possible health problems with regard to any pre existing conditions.
• Don’t choose the agency with the lowest price. Instead focus on making sure that you are buying a quality package with good inclusions.
• Check what is included in the package. Does it include insurance for staff?
Responsible tourism has the following benefits:
• Creates employment and opportunity
• Supports local communities through the employment of local porters and staff, using locally produced products and accommodation
• Provides quality service to clients
• Ensures the safety of staff and clients
• Focuses on the long term growth of the industry
• Ensures that clients are happy with their holiday and come back for more
• Encourages people to charge fair prices for products