Despite coming from an underprivileged family from a rural village of Nepal, Lila Bahadur Gurung has created a niche in Nepali tourism industry. Gurung, who started as a trekking porter, is now the managing director of Trip Himalaya Trek and Expeditions.
Born as the third child of his parents, Motilal Gurung and Ratna Maya Gurung, in Sakhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal on June 26, 1968, Gurung studied until Grade 7 in Saraswati Primary School and shifted to Himalayan Secondary School of Khandbari for high school education.
After SLC, he left his birthplace and headed to Kathmandu, with one of his relatives, in search of opportunities. Eventually he started working as a porter in Discover Nepal Trekking. “During my childhood days, I used to hide whenever foreign tourists pass through my village to climb Mt Makalu – the fifth highest peak in the world. Now tourism is my career,” he added.
Gurung got opportunity to take trekking guide and mountaineering training while working with Discover Nepal Trekking. After working there for around five years, he was forced to look for other job. “The company was owned by a man who was married to a foreign lady. Unfortunately, they separated and the company collapsed. The incident brought me to the road again,” he added.
But he was soon hired by Trekking Team on the recommendation of a friend. “I worked there for around four years till 1997. Then I joined Plan Holidays where I worked till 2005,” said Gurung.
After garnering valuable experiences, Gurung felt it is the time to open his own company. He opened a company named Trip Himalayan Trek and Expedition in 2005. Today, it is a reputed company in Nepali travel trade.
While continuing his business, Gurung managed to take basic and advanced course in mountaineering which enabled him to handle mountaineering expeditions. He has led groups to Mera Peak and Island Peak among others. “When I was young, I had a dream to climb Mt Everest. But it couldn’t materialize because of various reasons,” he added.
Commenting on adventure tourism scenario of Nepal, Gurung said Nepal has the potential to become one of the leading countries for adventure tourism. “But we need to do lot of things in this direction,” he added.
For business promotion, Gurung has travelled to many countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Gurung says he loves his company more than his family because he has put lots of efforts to set it up. He is the proud father of five kids. His oldest daughter lives in the Maldives. Similarly, his elder son is already married and works as a cook. “I tried to make him join my company. But he doesn’t seem to be interested,” he said, adding, “Other two sons are still studying.”
The seasoned entrepreneur is also interested in social work. He is performing responsibility as the treasurer of three social organizations — Gurung Tourism Enterprise Association, Sankuwasabha Tamu Society and Sakhuwasabha Tourism Development Committee. He was actively involved in political activities in his youth days. “I was actively involved in the political movement of 1990. But I don’t have much interest toward politics now,” he added.
He urges the government to revise policies and laws to bring more tourists to the country. “Nepal is already an expensive destination. Different entry and permit fees levied on tourists only worsen the situation,” he said, adding, “I don’t see any logic behind charging tourists US$ 500 for a 10-day trek to Upper Mustang.”
Gurung also urged government to encourage entrepreneurs by providing them different incentives. “Tourism is the backbone of our economy. If the government wants to reap more benefits from tourism, it should encourage tourism entrepreneurs like us,” he added.