Highlands & Islands

The Scot bringing 'slow tourism' to Nepal

Gavin Anderson in Nepal Image copyright Gavin Anderson
Image caption Gavin Anderson is about to make his 22nd visit to Nepal

A Scot is working with communities in remote valleys of north west Nepal to help them boost their fragile economies through tourism.

Gavin Anderson, who grew up in Findhorn and lives in Ullapool, leads expeditions to the Dolpo region.

With his Nepal-based business partner, Jigme Lama, he takes tourists to communities "bypassed" by other tours.

The expeditions are based on "slow tourism", holidays where people spend longer exploring fewer places.

The communities involved - Ringmo, Rike and Rechi - were rarely or never visited before by tourists.

Image copyright Gavin Anderson
Image caption The Dolpo region's sediment-rich, sacred Phoksundo Lake reflecting the deep blue colour of the sky

Mr Anderson has a background in international development and travelled the world while doing that work.

With his family, he runs a holiday cottage business in Ullapool in the north west Highlands.

He describes Nomadic Skies, his fledgling business with Mr Lama, as his "passion".

Image copyright Gavin Anderson
Image caption Mr Anderson has a background in international development

The idea for the expeditions followed a visit to Nepal in 2015 for the UK Department of International Development.

The first expedition, which was mainly made up of people from Scotland, was run last year. Getting to the region involves taking two internal flights.

Mr Anderson said: "As with parts of the Highlands and Islands, the valleys of north west Nepal are suffering from depopulation.

"Other expeditions that arrive in the Dolpo bring their own guides and mules, and don't use local labour."

Image copyright Gavin Anderson
Image caption Getting to Dolpo involves taking two internal flights

He said the region's fragile economy had further suffered because of a collapse in the trade of locally-sourced salt. Mr Anderson said new roads had provided access to cheap imports.

He said: "Jigme, a local to the north west valleys of Nepal, and I hire local people as guides. We are speaking to locals about training up female guides. They would be the first female guides for that area."

Mr Anderson added: "Those on the expeditions spend days living in tents in the communities. They can then learn about the culture, religion and language of the local people."

Among Mr Anderson's aspirations for the business is to set up campsites using traditional gur-style tents and the sites run by the communities.

He added: "I am about to make my 22nd visit to Nepal.

"In Dolpo, the people, especially young people, are as interested in where I come from and what my home is like as I am in their region and lives."

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