Sagar Pandey is the newly elected general secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) – the umbrella organization of more than 900 trekking agencies in the country. The young and promising entrepreneur runs a number of businesses including the Himalayan Glacier Treks and Expedition. Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress recently talked to Pandey on various aspects of Nepali trekking industry. Excerpts:
How is the present scenario of Nepali trekking sector?
Trekking has already emerged as an industry in Nepal but the government has not yet recognized it as an industry. The sector is also not getting state facilities that other industries in the country are getting. The government is showing partiality. We are working collectively to press the government for trekking sector as an industry and give the sector the facilities that other industries are enjoying.
What are the main challenges that trekking sector in Nepal is facing?
The sector is facing numerous challenges. These challenges are the outcomes of the government policies and infrastructure shortcomings. Illegal operation in trekking business, revised labor laws and the government’s preparation to welcome foreign investment in trekking are the problems emanating from the government policies for the sector.
Similarly, challenges emanating from infrastructure development and lack of infrastructures are equally serious. Expansion of roads in the Annapurna Region has spoiled the aura of popular trekking trails in the region. We need to preserve and maintain existing trails that are famous all over the world. Though lots of new trails have been identified in fat-western and eastern regions, we have not been able to persuade trekkers to try these trails because of the accessibility factor as well as time and cost involved.
As the general secretary of TAAN, do you have any plans to explore trekking destinations?
Yes. We have plans to explore new trekking destinations and develop alternative trails. But the detailed plan is yet to be worked out as we joined the office only recently.
How is the government policy regarding the trekking sector?
As I said earlier, the government should adopt policies that are favorable to the trekking sector. Moreover, the government should make service delivery hassles-free, timely and effective.
There have been talks of Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) going online. How far has the process reached?
Yes, preparations are underway to issue TIMS cards through online system. It is expected to go online by the beginning of the next year.
What will be your priority as the general secretary of TAAN?
Although a term of two years is not sufficient, we expect to make service delivery from TAAN Secretariat smooth and effective. Exploring new trails in different parts of the country is also in our agenda. Our focus will be on identifying, developing and promoting cultural trekking routes which can attract non-professional trekkers from around the world. We will also be maintaining high-level of institutional relation with tourism organizations as well as other organizations for overall development of the tourism sector.
We will also be working with the government to reform the outdated polices and regulations for the trekking and tourisms sector taking into consideration the need of future.