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Adventure Travel

Come back to Nepal

What’s the best way to help the devastated Himalayan nation? Go there.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Norbu Tenzing – photo by Jenny Jakubowski.

In the midst of tragedy, it’s natural — especially in an industry that’s so deeply rooted in community — to sincerely ask, how can I help?

“Everyone has been devastated by the earthquakes in Nepal, but how do you get more involved?” asked Marissa Nicholson, vice president of the Outdoor Group at Emerald Expositions, in her opening address at the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) breakfast at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

The question clearly resonated to a full house of show attendees who packed the room. Close to one-third raised a hand to say they’d either visited or intend to travel to Nepal. On April 25, the industry had their minds and hearts on the same objective — responding to the disastrous earthquake that hit Nepal. With a magnitude of 7.8, the first of two earthquakes took the lives of nearly 8,200 and caused an avalanche on Everest, effectively cutting short the climbing season for the second consecutive year. Less than three weeks later, a second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 shook 50 miles outside of Kathmandu, adding close to another 100 deaths to
the toll.

In the immediate aftermath, many outdoor brands helped raise donations and send gear for relief efforts. Now, the best help from the industry and customers is to travel there, Nicholson said, quoting Shannon Stowell, the president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. “The best impact that we as an industry can have is to keep going. Keep visiting the area and making sure that we’re encouraging others to visit,” she said.

Lending a hand to rebuild and donating money can certainly help, too, and the support has been tremendous. To point, Sherpa Adventure Gear has raised more than $200,000 in funds for ongoing earthquake relief plus essential supplies including clothing, tarps, blankets, tents and water purifiers. While less than half of the donations have been distributed, at this point, the company estimates that the efforts have directly benefited 2,500 households and 11,000 individuals (through July 5), according to the company’s first quarterly donor report. Social media and private donations, including those from expatriates, have been instrumental in raising awareness and fund relief, said Norbu Tenzing, vice president of the American Himalayan Foundation.

“The people in Nepal have amazing resilience and the spirit is really wonderful, but after the second earthquake, you could see the sense of despair. And the government wasn’t of much help. The civil service and army were great in helping people — but my general observation was that the government went into hiding,” Tenzing said. However, those efforts have met the short-term needs rather than long-term impact. In a country of 30 million Nepalese, the GDP is experiencing a loss of 50 percent, he said. In the long run, perhaps the most significant way we can help is by supporting the nation’s now-suffering tourism.

“In such a small country, the losses are absolutely staggering,” Tenzing said, but added that there are plenty of business and travel opportunities in Nepal. He also earnestly invited visitors to return. “One must travel to Nepal. There was hesitation, but it’s ready. I encourage you all to plan a trip to Nepal, take your next photo shoot over there, hire and do business in Nepal.”

The sentiment of moving forward is a hopeful and prospective one, but not clear-cut. Concerns of some travelers, or those who want to find a way to help from afar, question how an influx of tourists may impact the country’s resources, especially during the time of reconstruction.

Some avid climbers may already be lining up their next expedition. “Seventy-eight days until my next trip,” said professional alpine climber Conrad Anker, The North Face athlete team captain, who is counting down the days until he arrives back in the Himalayas. In Anker’s perspective, in Nepal’s case — one of the poorest countries in the world — it’s better to have too many tourists versus not having enough. When you return,

“Live simply, travel lightly. Don’t expect chicken at every meal and try to be mindful of the support system.” Meaning, given the culture, villagers may be more inclined to take care of the visitors and helpers more than of themselves, even if resources are stressed. Also, “they may not need your help with rebuilding, because they have [Nepalese] people who can do that, but any work that you choose to do needs to be done with a group, because all too often [visitors] get in the way. Moreover, it’s important to be a conscientious tourist, spend money there freely and let it multiply.”

—Morgan Tilton