Stranded in Nepal network rescues tourists

KATHMANDU, 2 April 2020: Stranded in Nepal a travel support network, was cobbled together in just 24 hours as Nepal embarked on an unprecedented lockdown to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

The initiative was created by Raj Gyawali, the founding director of the award-winning Nepali adventure travel company Social Tours, and Nepal Ambassador for the Transformational Travel Council.

“We were at the start of the tourism peak season when Nepal moved into lockdown. With no virus cases, a lot of trips to our country were not cancelled. But as the virus spread into Italy and Europe and quickly in the US, the scare grew real,”  he explained in a blog posted on Resislent Destinations.

“As Nepal started closing down, It was very evident that there was a need to support the industry, and assist travellers still in the country.”

The Nepal Tourism Board had just set up a “Crisis Cell” and invited Stranded in Nepal to support it from the private sector side.

The campaign started with a hotline that was active as the lockdown hit Nepal ending air access and then closing airports and land travel between provinces.

Stranded in Nepal pasted posters on shopfronts in Kathmandu with the hotline telephone number, which was quickly inundated with requests for information and clarity from foreign travellers stranded in Nepal. 

Inspiration for the project had its roots in the StrandedinBerlin website launched after the closure of ITB in Berlin by the founder of Travel Massive Ian Cumming.

He provided considerable support to create Stranded in Nepal, establishing a  repository of information and setting up moderated help channels.

“Within an hour and a half, of the planning session, the project had a website based on the template StrandedInBerlin, a WhatsApp group, a Telegram group and a twitter handle.”

From there it was just a matter of posting the information that travellers really needed – phone numbers of airlines list of embassies in Nepal and contacts, a google map of hotels and restaurants still open, intelligence on evacuation flights and a chance to gather around in the chat spaces to stay connectecd. 

At the weekend the website that is aligned to the  Nepal Tourism Board’s  Crisis Cell was up and running side by side assisting travellers who found themselves stranded in Nepal due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It took just two days from brainstorming to becoming fully operational. It quickly made a mark working with the tourism board’s  Crisis Cell and local authorities to rescue  60 trekkers from a mountain village. Organising the connections and the necessary papers the joint team effort brought the trekkers safely to the Nepalese capital.

Identifying the key factors that made the project successful, he gave credit to professionals who know what they were doing at the setup stage.

“Do not reinvent the wheel. Ian Cumming’s and Travel Massive’s experience proved very valuable and enabled us to act fast.”

The other important factor was joining hands with the Nepal Tourism Board that helped the initiative to deliver the logistics to rescue the trekkers and handle official paperwork.

Stranded in Nepal continues as the Covid-19 crisis spreads to offer advice and support to foreign travellers seeking to repatriate to their home countries.

Raj Gyawali is the founder-director of award-winning Nepali adventure travel company Social Tours, and Nepal Ambassador for the Transformational Travel Council.

Source: Resilient Destinations