In the fifty years since opened its borders to outsiders, tourism has brought many benefits, in terms of wealth generation, employment opportunities, infrastructure, health care, education and transport. However the massive influx of trekkers and travelers has also brought problems in the form of environmental degradation, social breakdown and the loss of traditional culture.
The positive effects of tourism are plain to see. Villagers who once struggled to survive in one of the harshest environments on earth now have running water, electricity, schools and health centre. Roads and trekking trails have brought prosperity to marginalized rural people and tourism has created a level of social mobility that would have been unthinkable in the past many of the Nepalese who own trekking companies today worked as porters themselves 20 years ago.
Sadly the negative effects of tourism are also clear. Begging is wide spread and litter chokes mountain trails. Forests are being cut down at an unprecedented rate to provide timber for the construction of new trekking lodges, and firewood to keep trekkers supplied with warm showers and hot meals.
There is endless discussion among trekkers about the most environmentally sensitive and culturally rewarding way to trek. Other people undertake a period of volunteering while they trek, planting trees or building health centers’, classrooms and reservoirs for mountain villages.
What is certain is that making a positive contribution is as much about the way you behave as the money you spend. Well heeled travelers may spend thousands of dollars on a single trek, but much of the money goes to agents aboard and fixers in Kathmandu and only a small portion filters down to people in the hills. Budget travelers spend less money but have a greater impact on poverty alleviation by contributing directly to the mountain economy.
We would like to ensure that Alpine Eco Trek & Expedition in Nepal is making conscious efforts to address problems associated with tourism. We have a serious commitment to protecting fragile ecosystems, and those who direct at least some portion of profits back into local communities.
Alpine Eco Trek is the responsible trekking and travel company in Nepal, because we are giving foremost priority to preserve our social and physiographic environments in joining hand with local communities.
Cultural considerations: visitors may find the traditional lifestyle of the mountains to be picturesque, but in many places it is a meager, subsistence level existence that could be improved in numerous ways. The challenge faced by the many charitable organizations working in the Himalaya is how to bring a modern standard of living without destroying the traditional culture of the mountains. You can do bit by showing respect for local traditions –this will also demonstrate to local people that the relationship between locals and foreigners is one of equals. Many of the problems what we experience in the mountains have been caused by members of well funded expeditions handing out money and gifts, leading many locals to regard foreigners as walking cash dispensers.