The Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI) participated in the Asian Rural Tourism Festival (ARTF), a week-long festival organized to promote rural tourism activities across the India-Nepal border from 3-9 March 2017. The festival was held in Bahundangi, Jhapa, Nepal.
Organized by the Asian Tourism Society in collaboration with the ARTF committee and Elephant Resort, Bahundangi, the festival had range of stakeholders participating. Participants included entrepreneurs from Nepal, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkim, and several Northeast Indian states.
Former Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Oli was chief guest of the event, and formally inaugurated the festival. He said, “I am grateful to the organizers for organizing such a wonderful event. This will help boost local tourism in rural villages around here.” Oli said that transboundary events such as the week-long fair help foster relations not just between countries but also between people who live very close to each other but on different sides of the border.
As part of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI), the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) together put up a joint stall at the event. The booth showcased KLCDI activities at the event. Bahundangi is one of the initiative’s pilot sites in Nepal. Various activities, including community based tourism, have been implemented in Bahundangi as options for diversifying local livelihoods. Nakul Chettri and Kamal Aryal from ICIMOD, and Kamal Ghimire from RECAST participated in the regional event.
More than 2,000 members of the general public, and representatives from various organizations, political leaders, international tourists, Indian representatives, students, and local people visited the stall and inquired about the programme. Aryal and Ghimire briefed interested visitors on KLCDI activities at the local, national and regional levels. Tourists were more interested in knowing about major tourist destinations in the region, and expressed concern regarding the limited information available on those sites.
KP Oli also visited the ICIMOD stall and interacted with KLCDI representatives. He was presented an information packet including books and ICIMOD souvenirs. Oli showed an interest in learning more about the KLCDI programme. In addition to this, a half-day interaction programme was also organized with various stakeholders related to the tourism sector on 3 March. Local tourism promoters, non-governmental organizations, representatives working in the tourism sector, including entrepreneurs from Sikkim, Kalimpong, and Siliguri, participated in the programme.
Lokpriya Khanal from Nepal briefly highlighted a new tourism route identified in the Mahabharat range which covers around 20 cultural and natural tourist destinations within a 57 kilometer trekking trail. Nakul Chettri also made a presentation on KLCDI and its focus on tourism as an element for socio-economic development. During the meeting, representatives also had a consultation regarding the present status and potential of tourism in the region, and the challenges associated with it. There is much enthusiasm about developing Jhapa in general and Bahundangi in particular as tourism destinations, and the concept is supported by political and line agencies as well.