Social Responsibility and Responsible Travel
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and hiring a local company will benefit the local economy, however the involvement of travel agents in Kathmandu must be approached with caution. The numbers of travel, trekking and Rafting agencies registered in 2007 were 1,078, 872 and 94 respectively. The rapid growth in tourism in Nepal coupled with the absence of a self-regulating code of conduct has helped to grow unhealthy competition among travel agents with regular undercutting in tariffs. Such undesirable actions take away benefits not only from trekking guides and porters but also from others engaged in supplying goods and providing services to the tourists. By paying lower tariffs tourists may save money but directly at the expense of local Communities. Try to use 'socially responsible' tour operators that promote proper porter treatment and cultural and environmental sensitivity among their clients in line with the UN-WTO Sustainable Tourism Criteria
Organised Group Trekking or Independent Trekking?
While organized groups from "western" tour operators drain the big chunck of the profit out of the country, they organized groups hire a larger amount of local workforce from porters to guides. While with local agents most of the profit remains in the country. Groups are more likely to go remote areas, and rely as much as possible on local resources to minimize transport cost and hire maximum local porters. Cost of full organized tours might be also very high, depending on services.
In comparison, independent trekkers while concentrated on the main trails with Lodges, stay often longer also in one place with less budget. They usually use simpler lodges with less costs. They venture seldom in remote areas, as that would mean more expense or very basic local services which most try to avoid. While individual travellers may consume more locally easy producable services, they generally spend less than organized travellers on same trails simply because they often have longer travel periods with less budgets.
Safety and comfort are higher with organized tours, freedom of changing itinerary is the domain of the individual traveller. There is a full range of choice for any demand, just be sure to think about well what trekking means. For the hard core trekkers, no porter will ever carry, while for many to carry a 15-18 kg backpack might be just simple too much.
Keep working conditions and wages in mind when selecting a trekking company. For visitors from the west, hiring guides and porters is affordable and an extra few dollars can make a big impact in the life of a guide or porter. In order to feed themselves and their families, porters take on the job of carrying heavy loads to high elevations. Some of the problems porters face are underpayment by companies, not receiving the full amount of tip intended for them, inadequate clothing and gear, being forced to carry excess weight, insufficient food provision and poor sleeping facilities. Sometimes these issues leave porters open to illness and neglect on the mountain. As porters have no job security, they have little room for complaint.
There are a number of websites that facilitate direct contact with recommended trekking guides and porters. The standard wage for a porter is 500 NRs per day and you pay for food and accommodation (approx 200 NRs) or 700 NRs per day without food - Most porters prefer this arrangement as they may save a few rupees by staying with relatives along the trail!
The International Porter Protect Group’s (IPPG) was set up in response to these issues, to improve health and safety for the trekking porter at work in the mountains and reduce the incidence of avoidable illness, injury and death. This is achieved by raising awareness of the issues among the trekking community and travel companies, leaders and sirdars. IPPG recommends the following guidelines that:
- Adequate clothing is made available for protection in bad weather and at altitude. This should include adequate footwear, hat, gloves, windproof jacket and trousers, sunglasses, and access to a blanket and pad above the snowline.
- Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves.
- Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed.
- Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language.
- Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment. Also, we select strong and experienced porters!
- All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather.