Asia's ecotourism and media expert, Lisa Choegyal gave a seminar on how the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) will benefit the poor at the inaugural event of Conservation Chautari, an open society platform.
GHT is a network of trails, traversing 4,500km distance to link six countries - Pakistan, China (Tibet Autonomous Region), India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. In Nepal, it is 1,700km which takes 150 day trek through 16 mountain districts with 1.28m population. Nepal has a huge growth in trekkers and crowding has started with concentration in Annapurna, Langtang and Sagarmatha. Therefore, GHT diversifies tourism to new areas to deliver benefits and address the urgent need for rural employment.
Who can benefit from GHT? Choegyal says that the answer is not straight forward but public sector (national & district level), development agencies & NGOs, private sector & travel industry and mountain communities who may improve their livelihoods and wellbeing through more equitable tourism, will benefit. Both economics and activities may alleviate local poverty and bring development opportunities and conservation benefits to remote mountain communities. Immediate challenges include maintaining network of trails including bridges, camping waste management, signage and others. GHT aims to divert trekkers from congested areas into east, midwest and farwest Nepal, help trek agents understand and sell new areas and build local leadership. To strengthen small & micro enterprises for improved rural livelihoods and a more professional tourism industry, market-led tourism businesses is the first step with community mobilization including women, product development, local business support for campsites, homestays, guides, porters and services. Thus, over the long run, Ms. Choegyal opined that GHT will ensure local benefit, use of value chain tool to highlights weak links, build partnerships by uniting stakeholders, engage the private sector and manage social, economic and environmental impacts.