The Himalayas: Abode of Snow stretches magnificently across countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal, covering approximately 2,400 Km. Two sovereign nations – Nepal and Bhutan, are surrounded by the Himalayas. For India, the Himalayas may also be called the country’s lifeline, with as much as 80% of this majestic mountain range falling in the Indian sub-continent.
Mount Everest (Samgarmatha) and the Tourism Industry
The Himalayas are of massive ecological significance worldwide. Apart from being the abode of the world’s highest ecosystem, some of Asia’s most revered rivers originate from the Himalayas. The Nepalese revere Mt. Everest – “Samgarmatha,” meaning “Goddess of the Universe”.
With Snow and mountain Tourism growing phenomenally worldwide, the Himalayas has witnessed incredible growth in terms of tourism. Nothing stops today’s discerning travellers from summiting in some of the world’s highest peaks. Mountaineering apart, the Himalayas offer some of the world’s most fascinating trekking trails – the Annapurna circuit, for instance!
However, the time has arrived to position the Himalayas most appropriately in the global tourism arena. A momentous question to ask the mandarins of the Tourism industry (India, Nepal, Bhutan) is whether the Himalayas have been projected and promoted in the right manner at the global tourism arena? Have we chosen the right ambassadors for promoting tourism in the Himalayas?
SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) was formed way back in 1985 with the mission to ignite sustained cooperation among South Asian countries in areas of the economy, healthcare, development and tourism. The SAARC motto was –”Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity,” and tourism was identified as an important vehicle for facilitating people-to-people contact.
It needs no reiteration to state that SAARC has yet to deliver, and experts believe SAARC is a failed mission. Former Vice Chancellor of Central University, Sikkim – Mahendra P Lama’s observation is of great significance here; In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, Lama is quoted as saying –
“Mistrust and inhibitions among the member countries were not letting SAARC flourish. They have to borrow a few pages from organizations like ASEAN and European Union, where borders have become softer, and cooperation is through projects”.
Considering the importance of the Himalayas and promoting sustainable mountain tourism, a good idea is to set up an exclusive Himalayan Tourism Board with member countries India, Nepal and Bhutan.
A Himalayan Tourism Board Across the Himalayan Nation
The proposed Himalayan Tourism Board could be given exclusive rights to promote the Indo-Nepal-Bhutan Himalayas as a composite destination in the competitive global tourism markets. The Board could also be vested with the authority to prepare and implement Tourism Action Plans with the sole intention of taking tourism in the Himalayas to a different level where it will compete with destinations like The Alps and Dolomites.
Branding a destination is often the key to the success of any destination, and the Himalayas will be no exception. In India, we have recently witnessed Bollywood celebrities of Big B, Priyanka Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan, Amir Khan, etc., donning the mantle of Tourism Brand Ambassadors.
As a Travel Writer, my take on this vital aspect of selling a destination is different, and I vehemently oppose the practice of appointing celluloid stars as Tourism ambassadors. More so, if it concerns the Himalayas, I would prefer a native who is aware of his/her art, culture, traditions, geography, etc., by the tip of his finger. A photogenic face and a tremendously curvacious body might fetch you “Blockbuster” movies, but they won’t work in the Himalayan Tourism arena.
One must bear in mind that global tourism is evolving. Today a destination of the magnitude of the Himalayas will have not just Mountaineering as an activity but also very specialized and immersive experiences like, for instance – trekking, mountain biking, river rafting, kayaking, hot air ballooning, skiing, mountain spa, yoga-in-the-mountains, high altitude mountain-hut living as well as stimulative cultural contacts to name just a few. So how does it make sense to appoint a celluloid star as a Tourism ambassador?
Ang Tshering Lama (Ang) – the Brand Ambassador of the Himalayas?
What a powerful message the mandarins of the tourism industry of India/Nepal/Bhutan will convey to the world community if somebody of the stature of Nepal’s iconic mountaineer – Ang Tshering Lama (Ang), is appointed as the Brand Ambassador of the Himalayas. Imagine the buzz he will create with images of him on top of Mt.Everest, dressed in mountain expedition gear and with his beaming smile! And mate, this chap has submitted Mt.Everest multiple times and holds to his credit the mantle of conducting the world’s highest rescue mission on Mt.Everest in 2017.
People like Ang and others of his ilk are ideally suited to don the mantle of Tourism brand ambassadors for the Himalayas as they have a proven experience of going above and beyond the call of duty in delivering truly spectacular, high-quality mountain experiences.
As the Himalayas become a more popular mountain tourism destination, the expectations of international visitors will continue to rise. They will expect high-quality products and services commensurate with their cost of travel.
If people of the stature of Ang are at the helm, the gigantic task of aligning the industry to create a stellar service culture that will meet customer expectations, drive visitorship and promote a stronger Himalayan brand will indeed be a reality.
These guys, who are natives or Sherpas, who have achieved great heights in the annals of mountaineering, enjoy iconic status and undoubtedly will inspire their people to raise the bar in creating distinctive and compelling Himalayan experiences.
Himalayan tourism needs proper people and processes.
For tourism in the Himalayas to succeed, we must have the right people and processes in place. Strategies, resources, technology, and people — the latter in particular play a crucial role in driving the whole mission forward. We must find exemplary ambassadors with the right blend of skills, personality and credibility for the mission to take off successfully.
When you have people like Ang at the helm as Ambassadors, you expect them to foster strong, loyal relationships between the visitors and your brand. Ambassadors should be passionate about and thoroughly familiar with your products/services and skilled at making profound connections with others on behalf of Brand Himalayas. It is precisely this trademark –”Profound Connections” that guys like Ang will deliver, which no other celluloid star can ever be expected to offer.
When people like Ang talk about the Himalayas, the world knows they’re experts and justifiably will seek out their opinions because they also exude confidence and positivity — traits that attract prospective visitors and compel them to listen to guys of such a rare breed.
Peaks apart, the Himalayas have a unique culture, and for centuries together, people here have crafted a culture that weaves nature and people beautifully together. Whether tourists are attempting to summit on top of Mt.Everest or want to visit ancient temples and pagodas, one thing stands out. Tourism in the Himalayas needs to be sustainable and branded most appropriately so that future generations can appreciate the region’s stunning beauty and sacred air to come.
We must be acquainted with and celebrate the people and experiences of the Himalayas that will drive the hospitality and tourism industries; I wish to hear from every visitor to the Himalayas to say only great things about their Himalayan experiences!
With the right people in the right place, the Himalayan region will develop more enriching, exhilarating and seamless tourism products for the discerning world traveller.