“Everything you do in Nepal is an experience; starting from the moment you set foot in our airport.”
Impressive and elegant; comfortable padded seats with carved backs, bookshelves stacked with certificates against the wall and a brief welcoming smile from the interviewee, Mr. Shiva Dhakal, Managing Director of Royal Mountain Travel Nepal. Dhakal is one of those rare people who is able to mix pragmatism with inspiration. While dealing with guests at the office, he manages to quickly pull you into a discussion of tourism, as if it is the last saving grace of civilization.
Having over 25 years of experience in the tourism industry, he points out that travel and tourism have proved to be a resilient industry. “The increased trend of traveling at the national and international level will be a continuous growth factor for Nepal. Tourism in Nepal is a platform, where we can offer more than just traditional trekking packages. If you have noticed, there has been a drastic change in the trend of travel and tourism in Nepal. It has grown so rapidly that there are travelers who seek authentic and fresh experiences. Tourism has become a part of our culture, it’s now a way of life.”
The more in-depth our conversation became, the more excited and passionate Dhakal became. “My interest in tourism started from a young age. I worked in a tour company and also worked as a tour guide for a few years. All the experience that I gathered throughout my journey brought me where I am today. I finally decided to open up Royal Mountain Travel a few years ago, and it has now became an established and well-renowned travel and tour company in Kathmandu. Back then, tourism was only about providing traditional trek packages, and our company offered similar packages. Tourism was just beginning to blossom and hadn’t yet evolved into what it is now, as it was just hotels and treks then. We operated our company in a similar pattern, but there came a time when it finally clicked. Do we want to run a conventional travel company, or do we want to do something exciting and exclusive? And, you know, the rest is history,” he laughs.
With so much positive energy and inspiration, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the company also focuses on women empowerment. “More than half of my team members in the office are women; and additionally, we have women tour guides, too. When we first hear the word guide, people tend to think of a male guide. We want to change such stereotypes and prove that women can be just as successful as men. I believe the participation of women in the tourism and hospitality industries needs to be increased. There’s so much they can offer, and it is also a liberating example for other women who want to work in the tourism sector.”
Travelers are allowing their passion to fuel their vacation choices. and as travelers begin to gain more experiences abroad, they begin to consider authentic cultural activities as a key driver in choosing a travel destination. With the increase in tourists in the country this year, the travel agency has also introduced fresh activities, like community home stays and community hikes. “Home stays give you a genuine cultural experience. It not only benefits the community, but also helps to increase tourism and various areas that may not be prone to tourists. The community home stays we have developed follow a specific model. By 2020, we are planning to expand our community home stays to 20 communities. Along with this expansion, we also focus on increasing entrepreneurship in the community. By this approach we are able to benefit everyone: the guests, community, and the country.”
People travel to places when they know they will get enriching and exciting experiences, or else why would one travel? The trend of traveling among the national crowd has also changed, a lot. They are also now looking for a distinctive experience.
“All of us are searching for fresh experiences, and if travel agencies can grab and utilize that attention, I promise you, the face of tourism will change. The tourism industry is a platform where we can bring people together from all around the world. How amazing is that, to experience different cultures in one place! That is one of the reasons why we must create value when we offer travel experiences here in Nepal. There is still so much exploration yet to be done and so much to feel, see, hear, and touch. This country has a lot of potential. We don’t have to stick to conservative packages or just eco-tourism or sustainable tourism; those can be incorporated when you create ‘experiences’. I feel everything you do is an experience in Nepal; starting from the moment you set foot in our airport!”