Nepal:Developing Sustainable Tourism

Nepal is home to some of the most lovely mountain scenery in the world, and is justly famous as the land where Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Mt. Everest. However, that was many years ago, and much has changed since 1953. How can Nepal preserve the past, solve the problems of the present and create a future for all the citizens of Nepal, and indeed, the whole world?

Grandiose? Perhaps, yet Nepal is a mystical place with a mystical destiny, despite its current situation. For no one is disputing that the present has its share of problems. The country is caught in a long-term political quandary of how best to serve all the people of Nepal which is affecting its economy which supports those very people.

Tourism Third Largest Foreign Exchange Earner

Tourism as a whole in Nepal is a huge foreign exchange earner for the nation. Some recent estimates have it as the third largest (behind only the textile and overseas worker remittance industries). Surely, this is only scratching the surface. If a well-designed model is agreed upon by the concerned parties, will not all earn more money? And will this not, if it is sustainable, be in effect a golden cow dispensing fortune for the entire country?

This is the dream which must be pursued. In designing a new model for tourism in Nepal, we should build upon the excellent foundation first enunciated in 1972 by the German government in its landmark study of a sustainable ecotourism model for Nepal.

What has changed since those days? First, the science of ecology and recycling has advanced enormously. Second, there are specific examples in other countries which can be studied and used to develop a more detailed model for Nepal. Finally, there is a body of foreign and domestic tour operators inside Nepal with a knowledge base and experience that simply was not available in 1972.

Barriers To Ecotourism In Nepal

What stands in the way of developing a sustainable ecotourism industry? Very little, really. If a just and equitable political settlement is reached via negotiations in 2006, then by 2007-2008, Nepal may be able to increase its earnings from ecotourism by a factor of 2 to 3 times according to conservative estimates (based primarily on the development of the Asian tourist market. This does not include the Gulf or Western markets which will also surely increase).

In short, there is simply too much money to be made to not solve the current political problems. Once this becomes apparent to the parties involved in these difficulties, a solution should not be long in coming.

Such a settlement cannot be imposed from the outside. No more than can the new ecotourism industry rely solely on the past. In order to grow the total revenue from ecotourism, the past must be honored and respected, but the future must be served as well.

Kamala Sarup
Nepali journalist and Story Writer Kamala Sarup is an editor for She specialises in in-depth reporting and writing on Peace, Anti War, Women, Terrorism, Democracy, and Development.