How to ensure universal accessibility in the highest country in the world? Asian Adventure Trips – one of the tour companies in Nepal, which organizes travel for differently abled guests, tells Globe4all about its experience.
When you are trying to talk about Nepal, many words beginning with the letter "e" come to your mind.
Nepal is exotic: Buddhist temples, pagodas, colorful flags, fragrant spices and incense, tiny villages lost in the mountains and yaks with shaggy eyebrows, attract many travelers.
Nepal is esoteric: according to legends, this is the birthplace of Buddha, the spiritual source of enlightenment, thousands of people come here to practice yoga, meditation, to touch the origins of Buddhism.
Nepal is expeditionary: at the beginning of the XX century, the Himalayan mountains became one of the greatest challenges in the history of mountaineering, an expedition to expedition was sent to conquer these peaks.
Nepal is extreme: hiking, rafting, trekking - there are 8 of the highest mountains of the planet, including Chomolungma / Everest, in this country.
Nepal is an ethnic: representatives of a dozen nationalities live here.
Recently, another feature was added to this list. It is something that earlier seemed to be unreal in the country, on 6/7 covered with mountains: excursion Nepal, for travelers with access needs.
Climbers with disabilities have attempted to conquer Nepal and its main point of attraction - the Himalayas. Only this spring the world saw the photos of two record ascents to Everest from the Nepalese side: Chinese double amputee climber Xia Boyu, ascended to the top of the “Goddess Mother of the World"; and Australian Scott Doolan reached the Base Camp on a wheelchair.
However, these stories, no doubt, worthy of perpetuating in movies or books, speak more about courage and overcoming than about traveling. Each climb required heroism and dedication, long training and preparation, repeated attempts.
However, is it possible to make Nepal, with all its natural wonders and sights, open and accessible for all?
A UNIQUE TOUR
Mr. Dina Nath Amgain, managing director of the Nepalese travel company Asian Adventure Trips, is confident that this is possible. In October 2017, Asian Adventure Trips organized a tour to Nepal for wheelchair travelers. During the 14-day trip, the tourists visited Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park.
Asian Adventure Trips was established in 2010. The company has been contributing in the tourism industry of this himalayan country for the last 8 years. It has been offering a wide range of products including; Trekking, Climbing, Expedition, Tour packages, Adventure Sports in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. The team of Asian Adventure Trips unites active, dynamic professionals with great experience in tourism. The administrative staff includes three employees with 15 guides and porters who accompany tourists throughout the travel.
Asian Adventure Trips is a registered Trekking and Travel company, recognized by Government of Nepal, (Nepal Tourism Board) and Organizations: Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) & Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). The main office is in Kathmandu.
“Asian Adventure Trips organized a wheelchair tour for our differently-abled guest on October 2017, which is also the best season to travel to Nepal, - Mr. Dina Nath Amgain said. - “We feel privileged to get the opportunity to serve the guest with different needs, assisting throughout a wonderful travel experience in Nepal.
The tour was operated for our special guests from Austria, Mr. Johann Gallistl and his differently abled wife Mrs. Theresia Gallistl. Firstly, the couple reached us and enquired for a 14-day holiday tour to Nepal, explaining their special condition and requirements. Considering their requests, we suggested them tailored trip package with destinations: Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. We had carefully planned the airport pickups and drops, accommodation and transportation arrangements for the trip, considering the accessibility friendly options during the trip. As many of the accommodation and travel options still lacked the accessibility friendly infrastructures, we had to pre-book limited star Hotels and comfortable transportation options for our guests.
With our special arrangements for the trip, we successfully visited our destinations that includes, UNESCO world heritage sites in Kathmandu, Monuments / Stupas in Kathmandu and Pokhara and even Elephant Safari in Chitwan National Park. From managing flights for easy transportation between cities to deploying additional field staff for inaccessible sites, we provided the best service to make the tour successful. We even carried the wheelchair through stairs and made some extra efforts to reach sites, which was worth the splendid views for the guests”.
According to Mr. Amgain, the tourists were very happy and satisfied. “The success of the trip generated the feeling that “Disability only lies in your head” and helped us further to research on more accessible tourism options in Nepal. We as a company feel privileged to get the opportunity of organizing the accessibility friendly trips. We even got to share this unique experience on a special program in Austria, with the invitation from our differently abled guest“, - Mr. Dina Nath Amgain continued.
ACCESSIBLE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE MOUNTAIN COUNTRY
In March 2018, experts from all over the world gathered in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, for the first conference on accessible tourism. The participants discussed tours for people with disabilities and for the elderly and talked about the ways to make the country's infrastructure more comfortable and convenient. To confirm the words with deeds: on March 30, the first accessible trekking route was opened in Nepal.
“We had an International conference for accessible tourism in March this year, where more than 200 delegates including representatives from global communities of the disabled had taken part, - said Mr. Amgain. – Coinciding with the conference, accessible Trekking Trail of 2.24 km for wheelchair users, senior citizens and blind people (to be upgraded) was opened. The trail (Deurali Danda Trail) at an altitude of 1568m from Kaskikot Deurali to Annapurna Gaunpalika Bhume Deurali provides a magnificent view of Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Fishtail and Mt. Manaslu. The trail has proper signage with washrooms facilities on the way. It is in the process of upgrading to 4km with other world-class facilities.
We know about 1 billion differently able people travel globally. So, to cater their needs we are gearing up in arranging the logistics that matches with the tourism products like that of accessible trail recently opened.
We have seen the increased interest of people in these issues and their search for the destination. This is sure to benefit not only the local people but also our industry and governing body like NTB”, - resumed Mr. Dina Nath Amgain.
Most of the territory of Nepal is occupied by the ridges of the Himalayan mountain system. What makes this country unique for travel turns into serious difficulties when it comes to creating an accessible environment.
“Despite the problems, geographically and in our infrastructures, our tourism industry is aware of and in continuous efforts to making Nepal an accessible tourism destination. From opening our first accessibility friendly trekking route to upgrading our infrastructures, notable efforts are being made both by governing bodies and local communities to take a step forward in accessible tourism”, - the interlocutor said to Globe4all. – “Asian Adventure Trips, as a tour operating company is also playing its part in making our services accessibility friendly by crafting tailored tour packages for our differently abled guests. Depending upon the type of disability, we plan and suggest travel packages best for differently abled guests, based on their requests»
For tourists with disabilities, Asian Adventure Trips has developed accessibility friendly tours:
1. Sightseeing Tours (in cities: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini and more)
2. Helicopter Tours to Everest and Annapurna Base Camp.
3. Mountain Flights up to Everest Base Camp.
4. Short Treks up to Muktinath (3800 m. Approx.).
5. Short Trekking (Deurali Danda Trail).
6. One Day Rafting to Trishuli River.
7. Jungle Safari.
Due to the geographical barriers Climbing and higher trekking trails are not accessibility friendly for wheelchair users. However, UNESCO world heritage sightseeing tours, city tours in Pokhara, Chitwan National Park and Lumbini are still great options for wheelchair travelers.
“Wheelchair friendly accommodation and transportation options are also available in selected cities and nearby areas. Furthermore, the newly opened accessible trekking trail in Deurali danda also opens some opportunities for accessible tourism. Besides that, Mountain flights, Jungle Safaris, and Cultural exploration tours can also be great options. - Mr. Dina Nath Amgain said. – “However, we are positive to the opening of more accessible trekking trails in other parts of our country too and are always dedicated to providing available package options as a tour operator for wheelchair travelers visiting Nepal”.