Deveraj Jaishi, a local resident of Karnali region has been engaged in water related tourism in the Karnali region for the last seven years. He is a tourism campaigner and river rafting entrepreneur as well.
Jaishi recently talked to highlightstourism about the feasibility of home stays, prospects and challenges of water related tourism in Karnali province. Jaishi’s presence of mind and his opinions about water related tourism are presented below for the perusal of the readers in his own language:
We have tried to revive the tourism in this region by attracting the attention of the local people in water tourism. Those who come to home stays can do rafting and those visitors coming for rafting can also stay in home stays.
The numbers of visitors were less during the lock down period due to Covid-19 pandemic, but now the situation has improved and changed as we see huge number of domestic tourists coming here from within the Karnali province. Our business now is going on as usual.
Our domestic tourists come from Surkhet, Dhangadi, Mahendranagar, Attariya, Birendera nagar, Nepalgunj as the time to reach this region is around three hours from most of these towns.
In addition, more domestic tourists are coming to us from other neighboring provinces such as province 6 and 5. So, usually we receive visitors from almost three provinces namely 6,7 and 5.
The bulk part of these domestic tourists comprise of government civil servants and non-government organization officials, who come here for fun and entertainment during their holidays.
While conducting any kind of water related tourism activities, we usually ensure that safety measures are followed in accordance with the guidelines given to us by the tourism department of the government and other health agencies.
For safety measures, we do sanitize the beds after it is used once by someone. Use of masks and other safety measure are compulsory. We never use the clothes used by one person.
Water related tourism in Karnali province
I think, the Karnali province has ample potentialities for water related tourism. The world’s highest tourism can be done in water because it comprises of various events such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking water board, flying broad, rafting and many more.
If we look at the human civilization, we can realize that the most of the human civilizations were based on the banks of the rivers. So, water tourism is very significant for Nepal. My house is also situated never the river. That’s why I am in this business.
Lack of Policy
All tourism related tourism activities can be carried out in Karnali River except for shipping. However, the provincial government of Karnali lacks some concrete policies related to water tourism. So, few water related tourism activities are not in operation in Karnali region due to lack of concerned policies as Karnali province is still lagging in this context.
Prospects of Home Stay
In the past, when we conducted rafting, we found that it was very costly to bring the eatables from the Kathmandu. The locals were not affected by the rafting business as they did not partake in the process of rafting activity. So, water related tourism such as rafting needed home stays significantly.
So, the home stay was started at Rajigaun where we can observe the Raji cultures, language and relish the Raji foods. Raji is one of the indigenous peoples of Nepal, whose identities are on the verge of extinctions. Our main rafting guides are also Rajis whose homes are turned into home stays. Raji museaum is also under construction here which can be visited for Raji culture, art and traditional life style.
So, in one package we can see both the culture of Rajis and do rafting in the water. Only ten houses of Rajis have been prepared for home stays to accommodate the tourists. 99% of tourists are our domestic tourists. We have never depended upon the foreign tourists as we can’t expect more foreign tourists as it is costly to visit Karnali region than visiting Thailand due to flight fare.
There no exact data about incoming and outgoing visitors to Karnali province barring the data about 100 to 150 visitors visiting this region from Kathmandu via Surkhet district.
The Provincial government departments like that of forest are not sure about how to move ahead for water tourism. They even hesitate about renewing the registration of the companies dealing in water tourism. I took 18 days to renew my organization recently which is the evidence of how clumsy the provincial authorities are. So under this situation, the provincial government should take more proactive initiative for water related tourism activities in the province.
As a matter of fact the province 5,6 and 7 are lacking right and specific policies for water tourism. That’s why, the rafting guides despite having taken trainings are jobless these days.
Challenge for water related tourism
The cost of flight is very high for Karnali as it is in dollars. Unless, it is low tourists cannot come to Karnali. It is not possible to bring tourists via highways too. So, we have to depend upon domestic tourists.
There is no knowledge about skill development such as digital knowledge. We have not been able to do branding in Karnali for rafting just like branding done for gliding in Pokhara. Even if someone wants to start a gliding in Karnali, then there is no policy on the part of government how to do it.
Government is posing like a crow in the fog. There has not been any training on rafting. The government talks about soft loan for the tourism operators, yet banks deny such loans to the needy tourism operators.
We have no insurance for rafting board. There is no interaction and connection between the rafting companies of Karnali and Kathmandu. If someone wants to go for training for paragliding, where can he?
Karnali region has prospects of village tourism, air tourism, adventure sports, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, water tourism as it is geographically and naturally beautiful landscape, provided all concerned stakeholders including private companies, provincial government and tourism operators pay due attention towards promotion of tourism activities in this region.
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