2020 was supposed to be the year for Nepal. Prior to the CoVID-19 outbreak, the country was all set to welcome millions of tourists from all over the world for its Visit Nepal 2020 initiative. The Durbar Squares were aching to be photographed. The monkeys in the monasteries and temples were preparing for a high inflow of peanuts from foreign-looking people. The abstract natural landscapes in the outskirts of major cities were begging to be embraced. This is only the tip of the iceberg though, for Mount Putha Adventure Trek was exploring and setting up travel-plans for ‘yet to be discovered’ parts of Dolpa and Mustang, that were aching to be explored.
Joining hands with the competition
While pursuing his undergraduate studies in Thailand, Sagyan Malla decided to collaborate with his uncle, Tarak Bahadur Sahi who started Mount Putha Adventure Trek on Chaitra, 2070 B.S.
“Deep down, I’ve always wanted to let people know the beauty of travelling. Being a travel enthusiast myself, I was organically interested to work with my uncle along with my friend, Prashant Sharma to promote the exciting thrills of tougher topographies like Dolpa.”
The intense hard work and persistence of this trio have let their company provide jobs to over 50 households in Dolpa till date.
“Since we are new, we established a strategic alliance with bigger travel agencies in Thamel. This allows us to keep our prices competitive.” He further adds that the pricing directly depends upon the number of people in a group: the bigger the size of the group, the less per head expense due to the economics of scale,
“We specialize in arranging treks for groups of 15 to 20 people for the seasonal period from April to November. Our alliance has helped us to collaborate with other companies as well: They provide services till Shey Phoksundo, and we take it from there, to the upper and lower circuit of Dolpa.”
The company has since been able to independently serve groups of 5 to 10 people directly. Recently it has collaborated with Sasto Tickets to provide hassle-free travelling options for its customers.
Lesser-known story of Dolpa and Mustang
Both Dolpa and Mustang is declared as a restricted area for foreigners by the Government of Nepal. Dolpa has historical ties with Tibet and was assimilated into Nepal, along with Mustang, in the mid-twentieth century. Due to its proximity to Tibet, it allegedly has served as a safe-haven for Tibetan freedom-fighters. Such allegations, as well as the danger of Chinese land grab of the former Tibetan land, forced the government to close its door to foreigners. Fortunately, some southern regions have been recently opened up for tourists, and they require a trekking permit after paying a fee of $560 to visit these pristine lands.
Major Attractions in Dolpa and Mustang
As the largest district of Nepal by land area, Dolpa is enriched with a unique lifestyle and culture of Bon: an earlier religion of Tibet before the influence of Buddhism. Such an ancient culture in one of the highest settlement areas in the world, Charkabhot is truly a marvel to behold. Apart from visiting the eye-popping spots like Shey Gompa and Phoksundo Lake, travellers can also experience the barter system that still prevails in this region.
“‘You never know what a new place has to offer’. Pulitzer award-winning author, Peter Matthiessen wrote in his famous book ‘The Snow Leopard’ after encountering a real snow leopard in his visit to Dolpa back in the 70s. So consider travelling to Dolpa once, if you want to write its second part” Sagyan chuckles.
Mustang further offers the majestic views of the Tilicho peak, Thorong La, Tukuche peak along with the purest vibes of Shree Muktinath Temple.
Complications while running a travel agency
Mr Malla shares that the main challenge in a country like Nepal is appealing to the authentic tourists who are willing to pay the premium price for great experiences.
“With increasing competition, companies tend to decrease the price of their packages to attract more tourists, but at the cost of the quality of experience and facilities.” Malla laments. As a result, it is more likely to have a negative effect on the tourism industry as a whole due to poor reviews and negative word-of-mouth.
He further explains the effect of cost escalation due to many middlemen, “Since the government is mainly focusing on a few countries like India, Malaysia and Dubai for promotion, it’s relatively costlier for tourists from other countries like the USA or Canada as they have to go through many agents before they reach us.”
Piece of Advice
Malla wishes to educate future entrepreneurs against the illusion of overnight success. “Those instances are outliers. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day”, Sagyan remarks. Though he is not comparing his company with the legendary ancient city, the principle is the same: You have to be ready to spend enough time and energy to gain experiential knowledge before diving in full-on and build the venture brick by brick.