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July 9, 2021

Maurice Herzog and Mountain Tourism in Nepal

  • Juddha Bahadur Gurung, Tourism Expert

A historical photo corner was established at International Mountain Museum in Pokhara on 27 November 2020 in memory of Maurice Herzog, a pioneer of Annapurna I summiteers. The program was jointly inaugurated by honorable minister Bikash Lamsal Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Gandaki Province, and the Ambassador of France to Nepal his excellency Franco’s Xavier Leger. Some historical digitized photographs have also been hand over by the Ambassador to the Minister of Gandaki Provincial government on behave of Elizabeth Herzog, spouse of Late Maurice Herzog. It was another historical moment for tourism development in Nepal.
Maurice André Raymond Herzog was born on 15th January 1919 in Lyon, France, and passed away on 12th December 2012. He served as a mayor of Chamonix city (1968-77) and secretary of state for youth and sport (1958-66) Charles de Gaulle Presidency cabinet member of the French government. He also served 25 years (1970-1995) as a member of the International Olympic Committee. At a young age, he joined in military service during World War II (1939–45). According to Wikipedia, he married twice. The first were together for 20 years (1956- 1976) and the second one married in 1976 and four children for him.

Juddha Bahadur Gurung

He was fond of mountaineering. At the age of 31, he conquered one of the 8 thousand meter highest peaks known as Annapurna I (8091m) of the world on June 3rd, 1950 without oxygen with other three friends namely Louis Lachenal, Gaston Rebuffat, and Lionel Terry. Only two people Herzog and Louis Lachenal reached the peak. Louis Lachenal expired (25 July 1921- 25 Nov 1955) at a young age. Both of them suffered from frostbite and lose their gloves.

After conquering Mt. Annapurna and making the world record in mountaineering history, the government of Nepal and then Prime Minister Mohan Shamsher JBR honored and awarded which became the news all over the world.

He wrote a book called Annapurna about mountaineering which was published in 1952. More than 11 million copies were sold (till 2000) making it one of the best-selling books in the history of mountaineering. This book is regarded as a milestone for the development of mountaineering tourism in Nepal. The book Annapurna contributed a lot for the promotion of tourism in Nepal to the global community, especially for trekking and mountaineering.

Everyone can imagine that seventy years ago the difficult geography, people, knowledge, infrastructures, communication, and many more were very poor compared to modern time. At that time Maurice Herzog’s vision and planning for the future were very encouraging which we can never forget. Some of his notable contributions are listed below.

Pioneer and sources of inspiration for global mountaineers
Maurice Herzog is a pioneer of mountaineering and an inspiration for the young generation and all the mountaineers. He established the 1950s as the decade of mountaineering. After this successful climbing of Mt. Annapurna I, on 29th May 1953 Mt. Everest (8,848 m) the world’s highest peak was conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealander) and Tenzin Norgay Sherpa (Nepali). It glorified mountain tourism in Nepal. The third highest peak of the world known as Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 m) conquered by British climbers Joe Brown and George Band on 25th May 1955. In the same year, Mt. Makalu (8,481 m) the 5th highest peak in the world was first summited by a French expedition team lead by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy on 15th May 1955. The next year, the 4th highest peak of the World Mt. Lhotse (8,516 m) was successfully climbed by the Swiss team on 18 May 1956, by Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger. In the same year Mt. Manaslu (8,163 m) was conquered by the Japanese Expedition team lead by Toshio Imanishi on 9th May 1956. During this decade out of 8, six peaks were conquered more than 8 thousand meters located in Nepal is completed by global mountaineers. At the beginning of the 1960s, the Austrian and Swiss joint Dhaulagiri Expedition team conquered Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167m) with the help of a small Pilatus Porter plan lead by Max Eiselin on the 13th May 1960. All these series of successful expeditions of mountaineering the cumulative effect marked in mountaineering tourism in Nepal.

Maurice Herzog and tourism in Nepal
In Nepal, 35 % of the total land is covered by mountains and people enjoy daily life with the hardships of mountain life. Even they do not think about how to utilize the mountain resources in economic opportunity for people and society. Maurice Herzog opened the eyes of mountain communities and motivated them to know about mountain resources. After the successful summit of the Annapurna I, mountaineering tourism flourished in Nepal. Mountain people of Nepal have been engaged in mountaineering activities and creating lots of opportunities such as knowledge sharing, cultural exchange, and other economic opportunities (Guides for trekking and mountaineering, porters, cooks, and hospitality sector among many other sectors). Tourist flow raised dramatically in Nepal. No authentic tourist data can be found before 1961. In 1962, the number of tourists was recorded at 6,279, after more than a decade of successful climbing of Mt. Annapurna I. Twenty years later (1982) the number of tourists increased by 28 times (175,448) compared to 1962. After 40 years (2002) tourist numbers reached 44 times (275,485) than that of 1962. Among the tourists, a large number of them visited Nepal for trekking and mountaineering (MOTCA 2020).

An analysis of tourist arrivals in Nepal reveals that Pokhara, the capital city of Gandaki province received an average about 28.46% of tourists visiting Nepal in the last decade from 2001-2010. But this figure fluctuated from 21.56 % to 38.28 % in 2010 (MOTCA 2012). This trend remained the same up to 2019. Based on this we could estimate an average of 30% of the total tourists arriving in Pokhara and especially in the Annapurna region to see the majestic historical white peaks of mountains series along with the famous nature and culture of the Gandaki region.

Mt. Annapurna I is an iconic mountain for nature and adventure seekers. Most of the visitors like to visit the Annapurna region. Thus major chunk of tourists arrives in Pokhara, as the city is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit trek. Every year a large number of tourists come trekking around Annapurna. This phenomenon forced the community to manage the Annapurna region due to heavy pressure from trekking many aspects such as socio-economic and natural resources management. Thus the idea of community-based sustainable tourism management was started in 1986 and it gave birth to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). This concept is very appropriate for community-based sustainable tourism management and as a result, this became a global model for community-based tourism management.

In Gandaki province, tourist flow moves towards the Northern side of the Annapurna region. To attract some more tourists in the southern sector of the Annapurna region in order to exhibit the culture and nature of the rural areas, a new concept had been developed known as the community-based Home Stay program for village tourism promotion. This has been implemented since 1996 at Sirubari, a typical Gurung Village in Shyangja district. This program now is owned by Gandaki provincial government as one of the priority programs massively implementing 300 units of Community Home Stay for rural tourism promotion within the tenure of the first elected provincial government lead by Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung. This is a good concept for rural tourism and a model for the global community as well.

Tourism is one of the main sources of foreign currency and employment generation in Nepal. A case study showed that in the Round Annapurna circuit only 1100 tea houses, hotels, lodges, and restaurants have been serving trekkers which is a very low number. Guides and porters create the service temporary jobs. People utilize their time in tourism and earning too. Not only this but many other activities in society such as relations established between individual and community as well as exchanges of love, affection, knowledge, culture, skill, and other unnoticeable activities can be affected by this profession. In 2019 around 181,000 people visited and trekked around the Annapurna circuit from 176 countries of the world which is a very much motivating impact of tourism in society.
Hence, Maurice Herzog’s contributions have remained immortal for the development of mountaineering and tourism in Annapurna Region for the people throughout the world.

Maurice Herzog

Maurice Herzog in the memories
As an honor to the great mountaineer Maurice Herzog, mountain lovers and tourism communities have established some memorable signs on the ground. Annapurna Rural Municipality of Kaski has established a Maurice Herzog half-size statue at Annapurna Base Camp, the most popular tourist destination in Nepal. The trekking route completed by Maurice Herzog and his team for mountaineering is named Maurice Herzog Trekking Trail that starts from Bhurang Tatapani to Annapurna North Base Camp in Myagdi district (though they started from Lete near Ghasha in Mustang). Likewise, Nepal Mountaineering Association established Maurice Herzog wall climbing and historical photo corner in International Mountain Museum in Pokhara. These are some tokens of memories to pay tribute to the pioneer of mountaineering Maurice Herzog.

Maurice Herzog was the pioneer and successful summiteer of Mt Annapurna I who established the history of mountaineering in the world. His record attracted the global community towards mountain tourism in Nepal. His book Annapurna created a new history in selling and exploring tourism throughout the world. Nepal’s tourism has been flourished and developed only after the publication of his book which has resulted in two additional by-products known as historical tourism management brands and global models viz. community-based sustainable tourism management and promotion of village tourism through community homestay program in Nepal. Tribute and salute to Herzog for his contributions to tourism development in Nepal.

– Nepal Parbat, Vol 19/No.22/February 2021

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