April 23, 2023
One of the chores on my list at the moment is to find a way to update our website and let people when a tour goes from “Open for Bookings” and changes to “Confirmed to Depart”. Before covid the majority of our tours would book out 6-12 months in advance, so lacking this feature was never a big deal. Folks who book early were just making sure they didn’t miss out.
Right now we have a photography group coming to Nepal in October, and that trip is confirmed to depart. It’s only half full presently, but we absolutely will run it regardless. When it comes to Nepal and Bhutan we have a long standing policy, that even if a tour doesn’t make any money we’ll still run it. There are several reasons for this, but the first is simply that a half full tour creates meaningful employment for our local teams.
Indeed every tour we run makes a big difference to a good number of families in Nepal or Bhutan. Tourism is such an important part of their local economies, but it’s even more important than just money. The guides and drivers and office staff and hotel owners all have an emotional connection to their work. They love sharing their country with travellers, especially my groups because they tend to be so enthusiastic and so glad to be in the Himalayas. For so many of our guests, this is the trip of a lifetime. Our friends in Nepal and Bhutan feel this energy, and it gives them purpose.
So long as we don’t loose money on a tour we are committed to running it. That might mean just 3 or 4 people sometimes. It’s a different journey with such small groups, but you know good things always come of it. Smaller groups often mean a more relaxed journey and a little more time for me or Shellie to absorb the experience or write some blog posts. They’re good trips to help train a new guide as well, with less stress and a better chance for a younger guide to try and understand what makes us “Western Folk” tick.
Right now the global mood for travel is a little weird. We had such a great resurgence over the last 12 months but it feels like a lot of folks are hitting the pause button again. In April 2022 the Nepal season was close to 100% of pre-covid normal, but in November it had dropped back to just half again. Bookings for Be Your Best Tours are very slow right now as well. For me and Shellie that’s a shame, but it’s not the end of the world. For our guides in Nepal and Bhutan it’s absolutely critical that we continue to run tours even if they’re close to break-even. For them, it’s a much bigger deal.
Decades ago I used to consult to a travel company who decided that following a natural disaster in Sri Lanka they would stop running tours for at least 12 months. I asked the Product Manager why they were so certain the tours can’t go ahead? Their response was something I’ll never forget; they told me they can make more money by shifting people to half full tours elsewhere, instead of running half-full tours in Sri Lanka. In other words, they could make *more* money by turning off the employment for their guides in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
I knew some of those people in Sri Lanka at the time. I had just left the country a few days before the Tsunami and was already making plans to go back and help a Habitat for Humanity rebuild project. They kept asking me, “When will the travellers come back, we need work more than ever.”
I know I can’t solve the employment situation for every guide in every country around the world, but I can do my best to ensure that my teams in Kathmandu and Paro get the best possible chance to earn a living, and to be their best selves in the process. All of which is a long winded way of saying, please come to the Himalayas later this year! Our trips are confirmed to depart, and you’ll be making a difference to some wonderful people.
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