Bradley WeissBradley WeissSustainable Tourism Development Consultant
"When we initially talk to small accommodation owners about incorporating environmental and also universal access standards, they usually agree conceptually but also tend to get nervous...So we explain that most of the measures can actually help them save money and that we’ll support them....the vast majority of small accommodations end up embracing the sustainability standards."

Ivan MartinIvan Martin, Project Manager, Swiss Cetacean Society
"Guidelines need to be specific and adapted not only to cetaceans but also to specific species and/or areas. A fin whale will not react the same way to a boat as a group of pilot whales or a Ganges river dolphin...The more precise a guideline is, the better."

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Albania's new tourism campaign is this year's most bizarre one yet

Albania's latest tourism campaign has raised a few eyebrows for referencing the 2008 hostage film Taken... which didn't paint the country in the best light.

by Kamal Thapa
B.Sc. (Environmental Management), Pokhara University, Nepal
Diploma in Energy Planning and Sustainable Development, University of Oslo, Norway

1. INTRODUCTION:

Nepal is a landlocked Himalayan country bordering India and China, with enormous cultural and natural diversity and tourism assets. The country has an area of 147,181 square kilometers or 0.1% of total land mass of the Earth. 83% of total area is covered by Mountains thus providing increased opportunities for nature based tourism and\or adventure tourism, including Trekking, Mountaineering, Rafting, Paragliding, Cycling, Wildlife observation and Bird watching and cultural experiences. Almost all of these activities take place in rural areas except cultural tourism in Kathmandu valley which hosts attractive art and architectural building and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural). Tourism development in Nepal dates back to the early 1950s following the successful ascent of Mount Annapurna by French mountaineer Maurice Hergoz, and three years later the successful ascent of Mount Everest, world’s highest peak, the Nepalese mountaineer Tenzing Norgey and Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander. The major issue remains that the tourism income is not being shared by all parts of the country; it remains confined to the major trekking trails and destinations such as Everest, Langtang, Annapurna, Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan region, often referred to as the ‘tourism triangle’. This has led to the tourism entrepreneurs and development workers to seek alternative ways on how to diversify the tourism benefits to other parts of the country as well in par with environmental conservation. Nepal’s rural settings also provide a strong foundation to promote rural and\or village-based tourism because of its unique lifestyle, unspoiled culture and tradition. If marketed in an innovative way it can bring tourism benefits in the villages that are off the main trekking trails and help create off-farm employment.

 View of Sirubari VillageView of Sirubari Village

2. VILLAGE TOURISM EVOLUTION AND DEVELOPMENT:

Nepal has more than 101 ethnic groups and 92 spoken languages and a rich variety of cultures, lifestyles, values and traditions. Although the law and the interim Constitution has provided equal rights to all ethnic and religious groups, Nepal is characterized by a highly stratified social system, resulting in the presence of many castes. In Sirubari village, Syangja district, west Nepal, which is the focus of this article, there are the Gurung and the Dalit[1] communities consisting of Damai, Kami and Sarki, which are often denoted as ‘occupational castes’. The village tourism ‘product’, Sirubari, only showcases the Gurung community and not the Dalit. With the exception of the Damai who are engaged in welcome, farewell and portering, no other Dalit castes are involved in tourism activities. Locally as well as nationally, the Gurung, who are officially Buddhist but also follow Hindu rituals and festivals, have a higher socio-economic status than the Damai.

Due to the lack of alternative livelihood options the youth and productive work force are compelled to emigration to cities and abroad. Over 86% of Nepal’s population live in rural areas, more specifically in 3,915 Village Development Committees (V.D.C.)[2]. Farming is the main occupation and non-farming opportunities are very rare so the emigration is inevitable in rural Nepal (Upadhyay, 2007).

To tackle this situation, the concept of village tourism was introduced for the first time in Nepal in Sirubari village. The village is located at an altitude of 1,700 meter above sea level and one can reach Sirubari either by Jeep ride from district headquarter Syangja bazaar (Putalibazar) or  by Bus/Jeep from Naudanda along the Pokhara-Sunauli Highway (Siddhartha Highway). However, the trip from Helu-Lamachaur (about 50 kms south of Pokhara) along the same highway offers the joint experience of adventure travel and short trekking along the lush green valley and terraced farm land of Darau-Khola and then uphill climb of about 2 hours from Arjun Chaupari. Visitors can choose either to walk (maximum of 4 hours) from Helu-Lamachaur up to the village via Arjun Chaupari or can ride on Bus/Jeep up to Arjun Chaupari and then a short trek. Nepal Village Resorts (NVR), a Kathmandu based travel agency serving as s marketing agency of the village tourism product of Sirubari, states that the first commercial group of 16 Belgian tourists[3] were taken to Sirubari in October 1997.

Typical House in SirubariTypical House in Sirubari

Before the initiation of village tourism in 1997, the village was no different than any other villages. However its unspoiled Gurung culture and intact rural traditions seemed to be a strong foundation to on which to build village tourism.

NVR defines village tourism as, ‘tourism practices in which tourist is staying in or near the villages, preferably unspoiled traditional village to learn about and experience village life. This kind of tourism involves the provision of local style accommodation, locally produced food items on the menu and the organization of visitors’ participation in village activities. The villagers provide accommodation in their own homes, operate the tourist facilities and services, and receive direct economic benefits from tourist expenditure’’ (NVR, ...). The tourism that is promoted in Sirubari is a kind of home stay where the visitors sleep and eat in the individual houses, giving them a sense of belonging to a local family as a family member. Visitors both national and foreigner are not allowed to choose the host family, but it is the Tourism Development and Management Committee (TDMC) of the village who assign the visitors to the host on the rotational basis. This provides the opportunities to the entire TDMC member households to welcome tourists and get tourism benefits in an equitable manner.

Host Mother Preparing BreakfastHost Mother Preparing Breakfast

In the initial stage of village tourism development, the model faced several challenges, especially in the marketing and promotion category. NVR, assumed through a contractual agreement the whole responsibility of marketing and promotion, making contacts with travel and tour operators, and setting up a website. This example of village tourism was unique in that it was developed from the supply side of the tourism market rather than the demand as was the case in other parts of Nepal. It was created by the villagers themselves with strong leadership and community participation. For example, the tourism infrastructure in Nepal’s major tourism destinations such as Annapurna Conservation Area (trekking tourism), Sagarmatha National Park (trekking tourism and mountaineering) and Chitwan National Park (wildlife observation and bird watching) was established to cater to the growing demand and needs of increasing number of tourists. Thus, it was a bottom up and decentralized approach in the planning stage.  Experience shows that government support is inevitable for the development of such type of tourism especially in the creation of infrastructure that is beyond the villagers’ capacity such as road construction, establishment of telephone and/or communication system, electricity, view tower construction etc. that needs technical knowhow and resources. However, small scale development works such as drinking water supply, local trail improvements, community hall establishment, repair and maintenances of village temples and Gompas can be done by villagers themselves from their community fund and voluntary contribution of labour and local skills. The Sirubari experience shows that the utmost importance for the success of such type of tourism is the local peoples’ participation (from cost to benefit sharing and in all stages of development) and a feeling of ownership of the project.

Tourism development has also been quite easy in Sirubari because it had already some sort of tourism infrastructure before the initiation of tourism. Strong unity among villagers, active youth club and mothers group were key local features. Key factors also included a supply of drinking water, experience in community forest management and good walking trails.

In 1985, the Kathmandu Research Centre carried out a detailed study on the prospects of village tourism in Nepal. Positive suggestions from foreign visitors/tourists paved the way forward to clarify this concept. After a long battle, the government of Nepal included a village tourism programme in its tourism policy, 1995 (Upadhyay, 2005). Nepal government’s 9th five year plan (1997-2002) and 10th five year plan (2002-2007) gave due consideration to village tourism too and promised to establish 14 different village tourism destinations in each geographical region within five years (Pradhananga, 1999). However, unlike Sirubari, the other destinations have not achieved worldwide recognition and attention and tourism development is slow.

3. TOURISM MANAGEMENT:

The most interesting aspect of Sirubari village tourism is its management paradigm. The overall management responsibilities of tourism activities are shared by 9 TDMC members consisting of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and 5 Members (Thapa, 2004) representing the local youth club, mothers group, fathers group, and others chosen from the consensus among villagers. It has the full right to make and amend any rules and regulations pertaining to tourism activities in the village. It manages the welcome and farewell ceremony, guest room (including type and quality of food and accommodation), local environmental sanitation and hygiene, assigns visitors to the local hosts on a rotational basis, arranging village tour activities through one of the community members and so on.

A Host FamilyA Host Family

The TDMC sets the minimum requirement for guestrooms such as the room quality, cleanliness, food hygiene and menu, the security of visitors and their belongings, among others. There are two different guestroom categories. In the first category, which meets the strictest requirements, TDMC members host national and international visitors while the second one is only for national visitors. By the year 1999, 50 families have opened their houses to host tourists but only 18 had entertained guests (Banskota & Sharma, 1999). In 2004, Sirubari had 25 households as active TDMC members offering accommodation (Thapa, 2004). Even Gurung households that do not host guests participate actively in the village development programme and accrue tourism benefits indirectly in the form of community development. Occupational castes that do not open their house to tourists get benefits by participating in cultural programmes, welcome and farewell procession and portering. This largely avoids the risk of widening the gap between guesthouse owners and others. 76 % of the surveyed households that did not own a guesthouse received indirect benefits. The percentage was 94% among Gurungs and 66% among occupational castes (Damai). 4% of the occupational castes received direct benefits from tourism by being involved in welcome and farewell ceremonies and portering (Banskota and Sharma, 1999). However an ethnological study carried out by Folmar in 2008, shows the occupational caste being deprived from gaining tourism benefits and often these groups commented that it made no difference to them whether the number of tourists and tourism activities increase or decrease in Sirubari.

Typical GuestroomTypical Guestroom

In fact, occupational castes do not host any guests because they cannot meet the set requirements and physical infrastructure demanded by TDMC. However, their role in playing musical instruments during welcome and farewell processions, portering work and the involvement in small scale construction work also provided them both economic and non-economic benefits which in the absence of tourism could be impossible. They also use  community assets and their increased awareness of cleanliness, sanitation, health and so on can be directly attributed to tourism. Folmar (2008), interviewed only one Damai, a musician, about his views on Tourism decline in Sirubari, who replied that he was indifferent. I do not agree with this evaluation as my informal discussions with Damai show that in the absence of tourism activities in the village they might need to migrate to other place/cities in search of work. Tourism has provided them small scale work in their own village and the opportunity to stay close to their families.

Gurungs are in the driving seat of Sirubari village tourism and the TDMC almost consists exclusively of Gurungs. They make all the necessary rules and regulations themselves as they are the tourists’ hosts. Occupational castes are employed in supportive works in the development of village tourism, mainly contributing to physical labour rather than economic investment. One cannot guess the success of village tourism in the absence of occupational castes.

Free and Independent Tourists (FIT) and backpackers (especially international tourists) were not allowed in the village until 2007, as all visitors were taken by tour operator through NVR in a coordinated way and encouraged to book the package tour in groups. But national visitors often bypass NVR and go directly to the village and the TDMC manages the accommodation for them. Once the tour date is fixed, the TDMC is given prior notice to arrange porters, welcome procession and cultural programme. This provides a great opportunity to TDMC and host family to be prepared in advance. If the visitors enter the village in a group of 8 or more (Folmar, 2008), there will be a welcome procession with traditional Panchai baja[4] or Naumati baja. A standard package of 2 days / 3 nights or 3 days / 4 nights is offered. Most of the visitors choose the first one (Gurung, 2005, Pers. Comm.). The tourism management and operational modality in Sirubari is given in the Appendix.

International Tourists in SirubariInternational Tourists in Sirubari

Visitors’ perceptions, both national and international, is very positive towards tourism activities in Sirubari. Almost all of the visitors who registered comments in the visitors book kept in Buddha Gompa, praised Sirubari. The total number of commentators were 2,320. We divided the comments into 6 major headings: Visitors liked Culture (16%), Environmental Quality (17%), Hospitality (24%), Satisfaction (15%), Social structure (22%) and gave Recommendations for further improvement (6%) (Thapa, 2005).

Domestic Tourists in SirubariDomestic Tourists in Sirubari

Tourism management has been easy, primarily because of the low number of tourists in compared to other conventional destinations. Till 2066 B.S. (mid April 2010), the number of visitors visiting Sirubari amounted to 9,495, 7,944 domestic and 1,551 international visitors (TDMC, Sirubari). An annual breakdown of visitors is provided in a table further below. Visitation increased from 1999 to 2002, but once the country was engulfed in emergency period and civil war, visitors numbers decreased drastically to just 106 in 2005/06 (Table 1).

The village itself didn’t see any fighting but wall paintings and pamphleting in support of the Maoists and against the then government was seen in neighboring villages. The Sirubari village lies in the Syangja district. The Maoists attacked the Syangja district headquarter in November, 2001 which compelled the then government to enforce an emergency period all over the country. This incident developed a negative tourist image for the district. At the same time various embassies in Nepal had issued negative travel advisories to their citizens to be cautious while travelling in Nepal, especially in rural areas. Both the security forces and the Maoists warned tourists all over the country to avoid the chances in being crossfire. From the political perspective, Sirubari was relatively quiet in comparison to most other rural areas in Nepal during the war time. Statistical analysis using shows that the Pearson product moment correlation coefficient between the total visitor arrival in Sirubari (including both domestic and international) and total visitor arrival in Nepal is moderately positive correlated (r=0.40635) for the year 1997 to 2009.

After the signing of the comprehensive peace accord in 2007 among the major political the visitors number started to increase again in Sirubari (see Table 1). The ongoing peace and political stability and the country’s preparation for the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 shows bright prospects for the internationalization and marketing of Sirubari village tourism product. 13% of total hotels from Nepal’s Terai (Lowland) protected areas were closed due to the impact of insurgency (Gautam, 2004 cited in Thapa 2005), but this has not affected Sirubari such as increasing unemployment as Tourism is complementary to existing economic activities.

Visitors arrival in Sirubari

Year

Domestic

International

Total

1997/98 (2054 B.S.)

436

152

588

1998/99 (2055 B.S.9

764

201

965

1999/2000 (2056 B.S.)

1322

268

1590

2000/01 (2057 B.S.)

1521

287

1808

2001/02 (2058 B.S.)

1435

288

1723

2002/03 (2059 B.S.)

92

24

116

2003/04 (2060 B.S.) 

172

67

239

2004/05 (2061 B.S.) 

179

25

204

2005/06 (2062 B.S.) 

69

37

106

2006/07 (2063 B.S.) 

222

35

257

2007/08 (2064 B.S.) 

769

65

834

2008/09 (2065 B.S.) 

439

69

508

2009/10 (2066 B.S.) 

524

33

557

Grand Total

7944

1551

9495

Source: TDMC, Sirubari (at least one overnight stays).

The major tourism resources of the village are Local Gurung culture, Livelihoods pattern, (the way of living), community forest/forest nursery, and the Thumro Juro view point. Tourism activities begin from the arrival day as they experience the unforgettable welcome procession from gate of the village. The people queue up at the main entrance to welcome tourists with flower bouquets and garlands and the Panchai baja is played on. They take  the tourists to the Buddha Gompa where light snacks are offered to them and after short break they are handed over to the guestroom owner as per their turn on rotational basis. On the second day of their arrival, tourists are taken to Thumro Juro (if the weather is clear) to see the Himalayan ranges. They get the chance to see the community forest too. In the day time tourists are shown the local way of living such as agriculture works, animal husbandry, use of wood made traditional grinding machine and so on. They can explore the nearby government school, health post and other rural settlements and villager’s daily interaction for the livelihoods. Even tourists can participate in household activities such as cooking, milking cow or buffalo, participate in harvesting crops or do some work in the kitchen garden, depending on the cropping season. Everything is open to them and they can get chance to explore village on their own wish and interest. In the evening of the second day, a cultural programme is organized in the community building with singing and dancing. Gurung dances such as Sorathi and Gathu with some folk songs and dances can be observed there. On the third day, after their breakfast with the host, they leave the village. Once again they gather in the Buddha Gompa, get some blessing from the lama (Gompa Buddha priest), and write some comments and their experience in the visitors’ book. After the Tika[5] and blessings from the Lama they are praised with Sirubari Topi[6] (Cap) as a token of love and appreciation. Once again they are seen off from the village; people queue up in line and offer flowers and garlands.  

4. TOURISM IMPACTS: 

Tourism does not only create benefits but it brings along some negative impacts which can be devastating if not managed properly and addressed in time. With the growth of tourism, the negative impacts worldwide include loss of cultural integrity, environmental damages and inflation. In a country like Nepal, where the cultural and social structure is still traditional and intact, there is sensitivity to any negative influence from tourism. Similarly, the fragile mountain environment and deteriorating pristine natural environment can also be very sensitive towards tourism as the growing number of tourists and their demand for daily needs put pressure on natural resources. Acculturation of intact tradition/culture and westernization can be attributed to the cultural erosion of Nepal whereas depletion of natural resources, especially forest, wildlife and biodiversity, accumulation of waste along trekking trails and destination community can be pointed to negative environmental impacts. Leakage of tourism income and lack of coordination between tourism activities and local production system are the examples of negative economic impacts. These have been the subject of discussion among academia, policy makers and practitioners on how to reduce it. A study in the Annapurna Conservation Area (Ghorepani) shows that 76.41 % of total income was used to import various goods among lodges whereas just 23.59 % remained in the destination community! (Banskota and Sharma, 2004). Another study shows that only 6% of the total income was retained in local economy in the Annapurna Conservation Area (Nyaupane and Thapa, 2004 cited in Thapa, 2005) 

Negative environmental impacts have not been experienced so far in Sirubari, probably because of the low flow of tourists. The Award-winning community forest has maintained a good biodiversity with presence of different species of wildlife, including birds. Consumption of a local meal together with the host family has discouraged the use of packaged food items that are popular in urban based tourism so the problem of disposing plastic is reduced. Generally, the meal is offered in the village 4 times a day: breakfast, lunch, late afternoon light snacks and dinner. Breakfast contains tea, milk, egg, homemade bread (typical to Nepal’s lifestyles) with light fried spicy (not hot) potatoes. Lunch consists of the food items taken by ordinary Nepalis: rice, lentils, vegetables, tomato chutney, chicken meat and salads such as onions and cucumber. Late afternoon snacks may contain tea, maize, some kind of bread, bitten rice. Dinner is similar to lunch along with home brewed alcohol. Rice pudding is also offered as dessert. More than 95% of the meal that is offered to tourists in Sirubari is similar to taste and variety that is daily consumed by Nepalese people. 

Typical Meal offered to the TouristsTypical Meal offered to the Tourists

Grey water from toilet and bathroom are supplied to septic tank whereas waste water from house hold activities are supplied to kitchen garden. Bio-degradable waste is used to make compost or mixed together with farm yard manure (Thapa, 2005). At least once a week, villagers organize a cleaning campaign in the village’s main trails and community area to make it aesthetically pleasant for the guests. Many mountain tourism destinations in Nepal are facing a deforestation problem due to the continuous supply of firewood to meet the growing needs of energy to tourists and local people and the absence of alternative energy sources. The case of Sirubari is again different, tourism has led to the adoption of alternative energy. 93% of the surveyed households have some sort of alternative energy sources such as improved cook stoves, biogas and solar cooker (Thapa, 2005).

Solar CookerSolar Cooker

Research shows that the visitors are willing to pay more than double for the current level of entry fee (27 U.S. dollar) in Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal in order to better protect the environment (Baral et.al., 2008). So, a similar conclusion can be drawn for Sirubari: a better natural environment will attract responsible or environmentally conscious tourists willing to pay more for the services they take resulting in a direct positive impact in local economy.

Dung Mixture and main biogas valveDung Mixture and main biogas valve

Leakages have been the major issue of concern in the tourism sector. The communities who bear the environmental and social costs of tourism do not receive tourism benefits in many cases. The level of economic benefits from tourism that the villagers in Sirubari received is quite low in comparison to the investment made on guest room (NRs. 50,299) and operating costs (NRs. 10,422) (Banskota et.al., 2005). A tudy by Thapa (2005), revealed that the maximum amount of investment was NRs. 70,000, incurred in the construction of toilet and bathrooms plus some modifications in guest room whereas lowest investment was just NRs. 20,000 incurred in converting a normal room into a guestroom and arranging some furniture too. Contracts between the TDMC and NVR made the provisions that TDMC receives 1,700 NRs. for every foreign visitor: The TDMC keeps NRs 700 to meet the portering, welcome and farewell ceremony and so on and NRs. 1000 goes to the guest room owner. The tariff rate for domestic visitors is low. Banskota et.al., (2005) recommends that the the length of stay of visitors is increased to four days from the current package of two days and also to increase the current tariff rates by 20% to make the Sirubari village tourism economically viable and sustainable. Most of the villagers invest this amount from their own family savings so they do not experience any trouble in paying back a loan and were free from economic burden. Still, if a comparison is made between Sirubari and Nepal’s other well known tourism destinations the prospects seems to be bright for Sirubari because of the low level of leakages.

There are reports of many negative socio-cultural impacts too in the tourist destinations, especially in the mass tourism destinations. Commercialization of local tradition and culture, introduction of alien culture, arts and architecture, pollution of sacred places of religious importance, decline in the support for local culture are some noted negative examples of tourism. Even the religious festivals are altered and observed in opposite season just to make it a tourist attraction (Sharma, 1998).  Rejuvenation of almost lost traditions and culture can also sometimes act as tourism resources. Despite, having great potential to offer both the negative and positive social impacts by tourism in the destination community, the negative consequences has not been felt and experienced in Sirubari till date. One of the Nepalese tour guides, who was guiding Japanese village tourists at the time of his interview with the author, confirmed that Sirubari has not been influenced by any negative activities of tourists. He has witnessed drug abuse and cultural erosion of tourist areas in other parts of Nepal but did not find any sign of these in Sirubari.  Instead, tourism has increased the bond between tourists and local hosts and community as well which is found rarely in other destinations (Thapa, 2004, Pers. Comm.) Villagers responded that the contact with tourists and opportunity to host them has increased their knowledge on various subjects and helped to share each other’s experience. Tourism has been a success in Sirubari based on social capital such as local culture, guest–host relationship and so on. These are major tourism resources in Sirubari and also the visitors have interest on local culture, want to observe participation pattern in development and see local livelihoods (Thapa, 2005) thus, making tourism sustainable and socially acceptable. Sirubari was a role model village even before the initiation of tourism. It has bagged various awards (see Box 1.) both before and after the tourism was promoted.

The opportunities derived from village tourism in Sirubari have been proved by the awards gained by the village in various sectors: tourism, forestry, youth, development sector. Due to the high rating of youth involvement in village development the local youth club of Sirubari won a national youth award in 1993. Likewise, the forest user group of Sirubari has won the national forest conservation award in 1995. Sirubari village tourism project won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) gold award in the heritage category at the 2001 PATA gold awards. Similarly, the government of Nepal has recognized Sirubari for its contribution to sustainable mountain development at the local level. In this regard, the village has been awarded the International Mountain Development prize on the occasion of International Mountain Day 2004. (Source: Thapa, 2005, p 30).

5. August 2010 Update

I have visited Sirubari on the first week of August 2010 and there have not been significant changes in the village over five years since I conducted my field research.

The Contractual agreement with Nepal Village Resorts ended in 2007 leading TDMC to function as independent organization and new TDMC has also been reformed for the first time in 10 years. Breakup of the agreement with NVR made the FIT and independent tourists with private guide possible to visit the village.

Until the TDMC has contractual agreement with Kathmandu based travel and tour operator (NVR), any international travelers whether FIT or with a private guide used to turn away from the villages and TDMC has this experience before. This has happened especially for FIT without guide because almost all independent travel agencies and their guides were aware about the tourism management modality of Siruabri so they first contact the NVR prior to taking tourists to village. And no agencies and guides took tourists on their own will prior to approval from NVR.

But, now the scenario is different. The contractual agreement has been dismissed with NVR in 2007 as the first agreement was for 10 years from 1997. The reason for this was that NVR do not agree to comply with the new revised tariff rate proposed by TDMC to meet the market value and expensiveness. Also, the guests with NVR seem to be low in comparison to earlier year and marketing and promotion activities seems to be weak then earlier days.   However, they gave time to NVR for one year to rethink its decision. Once NVR did not agree to make a  new agreement then the old agreement was dismissed.

Now, the TDMC accepts tourists from independent travel agencies and tour operators, with private guides and FIT. Notification of arrival is expected well in advance. The TDMC is also open to any travel or tour operator to enter in a new contractual agreement similar to NVR if any agency accepts the standards proposed by TDMC. The acceptance of FIT or tourists with private guide in the future depends on the new agreement with prospective travel and tour operator.

Other changes: A picnic spot just above the village has been developed which can be used by villagers in Losar[7] and by tourists for picnic purposes. House tagging has been done with specific identification number and name of the house owner in order to reduce the confusion for visitors. A sign board has been erected with the message to preserve natural heritage. Similarly, an environmental awareness sign board has been established and a rubbish bin kept at the motorable road from Sirubari on the way to Panchamul School. A solar water heater has been connected in one household whereas other uses gas geyser to heat the water for shower purpose.

The length of stay in Sirubari has not been increased yet. Over 95% of the visitors still choose the 2 nighs / 3 days tour package (Gurung, 2010, Pers. Comm.). The main reason for this is the lack of other tourism activities which encourage the visitors to stay longer. The construction of a picnic spot is underway which will offer a space for campfires and perhaps encourage visitors to hike about 1.5/2 hours to Thumro Juro view point, above the village and increase the length of stay. Also the inclined plane landscape above the village (just 15/20 minutes walk) offers good chances for paragliding. Visits to local schools and health posts can provide an interesting experience for international tourists. If at least these activities are included in the package the length of stay can be increased to 3 nights and 4 days.

The village tourism model in Sirubari has provided lesson for the planners and policy makers working in the field of tourism and local development because of its management structure. Also this is the first tourism product in Nepal which is created from the supply side in the tourism market unlike demand led tourism development in other parts of Nepal. Even, after the restoration of peace in the country the tourist arrival has not increased significantly as expected. Similarly, young generations are migrating to urban areas as well as abroad for their higher studies and high paid jobs. This has created a generation gap in Sirubari tourism leaving a vacuum for the young generation to take up tourism management responsibilities. Till date, only the father and mother groups have carried out the tourism activities and their children seem to be reluctant for entering the tourism sector. Sometimes it seems there are only seasonal visitors who come only during their vacation and festivals. If the current trend continues then one cannot be optimistic about the future of tourism in Sirubari and it can collapse within the next 2 decades. This is not because of the drying up of funding that comes from outside sources like in many community based tourism destinations but because of the lack of interest among the young generation to carry out tourism as complementary to the existing local economy.  

6. CONCLUSION:

Village Tourism in Sirubari is small scale and can be considered and alternative form of tourism in terms of visitor numbers and tourism practices. It neither involves central level planning nor an existing tourist destination, but a tourism product developed from the grassroots level through the active participation of the people in consultation and co-ordination with an urban travel agency which took care of marketing responsibility. It has provided a lesson to the government on how to extend tourism benefits to the rural people. Various awards bagged by Sirubari village reflect its success as a role model not only for Nepal but also for the world.

The successful initiation and implementation of Sirubari village tourism depended on some important factors which are listed below (Nepal, 2007, p 363):

  • Overwhelming local support for community oriented projects,
  • Proactive marketing and publicity at the national level,
  • Strong social and economic standing of the participants,
  • Community support for tourism and willingness to adapt to economic opportunities,
  • Projects built upon principles of partnership and collaboration and
  • External support to the projects from the governments and NGOs.

Sirubari is the only such tourism destination in Nepal where the domestic tourists exceed international tourists. Domestic tourists especially visit Sirubari to get the lessons of village development whereas international tourists visit to see the Nepalese rural way of living and to experience its cultural in natural settings along with some other activities. With the observance of peace process and political stability in the country it is assumed that more tourists will visit the village. Nepal has prepared itself to see the year 2011 as Visit Nepal Year so it will be the golden period to market Sirubari accordingly from now on and to target quality tourists rather than budget tourists.

Preparation of tourism management plan, promotion of tourism and environmental awareness programme, and marketing of the village via internet or latest mode of communication help to internationalize on the occasion of “Nepal Tourism Year 2011”. To make village tourism sustainable and to promote it through the concept of sustainability, especial target should focus on to host high quality-low number of tourists rather than low quality-high numbers.

Appendix 1: Tourism management and operational modality in Sirubari Village Tourism in 2001 (Parr, 2001) – valid until 2007.

Appendix1Appendix1

Appendix 2: Current tourism management and operational modality in Sirubari Village Tourism (after the agreement dismissed with NVR). This modality may undergo changes if TDMC enter into new agreement with some other travel/tour operator.

 

Appendix2Appendix2

References

Banskota, K. & Sharma, B. (1999). Village Tourism in Sirubari:Implications for Sustainability. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu.

Banskota, K. and Sharma, P. (2004). Tourism for Mountain Community Development: Case Study from Annapurna and Gorkha Region of Nepal. ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Banskota, K., Sharma, B., and Blonk, E. (2005). Economics of Sustainable Village Tourism: Experiences and Lessons from Sirubari, Nepal. ICIMOD Newsletter No. 48, p. 29-31.

Baral, N., Stern, M.J., and Bhattarai, R. (2008). Contingent Valuation of Ecotourism in Annapurna Conservation Area Nepal: Implications for Sustainable Park Finance and Local Development. Ecological Economics, Vol. 66, Issue 2-3, p 218-227.

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[1] Dalit and occupational castes are used interchangeably and they are the age old (century old) tradition in the Hinduism caste system. They are characterized by their special skills, for eg. Damai are referred to tailoring and playing musical instruments, Kami are referred to iron works, Sarki refereed to leather works, Sunar referred to gold and jewellery works etc.   They are often ranked as the lowest caste in the Hindu caste hierarchy and are not allowed to enter to the Hindu temple and Buddhist Gompa. High caste Hindu (eg. Brahamin)  do not let them to enter to their houses too. Nepalese law and interim Constitution has provided equal rights to all the caste, ethnicity and religion but this is viewed as a social problem. It is punishable by law to practice the system of high caste and low caste but the implementation of law seems to be weak. Even the Dalit groups do not file cases to the court against high castes if they are deprived from their rights.

[2] V.D.C.  is the smallest political and administrative unit in Nepal and usually consists of 9 different wards and wards are the cluster of villages.

[3] Tourists and visitors are used synonymously in this article.

[4] Collaborative name of 5 different traditional local musical instruments is called panchai baja and 9 different musical instruments is called naumati baja. They are often played in special function such as marriage, religious ceremony etc. in Nepal.

[5] Tika is often denoted to red vermillion powder that is mixed with rice and fixed at human forehead. It is offered in special occasions such as marriage, puja (worshipping goddess), religious ceremony etc. and practiced by Hindu and Buddhist.

[6] Topi (Cap) is hand woven in Sirubari from Wool thread and offer to every international tourist during farewell at no extra cost.

[7] A kind of Buddhist festival that lies on mid Paush (around New Year in western calendar).

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