A daylong International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference (ITBMC) was organized in Kathmandu on June 1 on the occasion of the Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM) 2017.
The event hosted by Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation is organized by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Pacific Asia Travel Assocition (PATA) Nepal Chapter is the executive organizer. The first session of the HTM 2017, ITMBC, which was held in the beautiful Park Village Resort in Budhanilkantha, saw participation of hundreds of national and international bloggers, media and travel and tour operators.
There were many eminent speakers on the travel bloggers and media meet up. Deepak Raj Joshi, the CEO of NTB, welcomed the participants and mentioned that Kathmandu is unique in so many different ways. “It is the only capital city in the world where national park is so close to the city. It is also a city with the airport within city,” he said, adding that it was an amazing experience to witness the international bloggers visiting Nepal.
He further said that bloggers and travel writers play a very important role in projecting the image of Nepal to promote the tourism potential of the country.
Chief Guest Minister for Health Gagan Thapa said that Nepal’s strategy should be to tell travelers to come here before the changing climate takes its toll on the Himalays. “Our vibrant intangible heritage like Kirat Sakela and Rato Machindranath, weekly events and festivals happening in the alleys of the Kathmandu Valley can be a memorable experience for the visitors,” he said, adding: “While we may not be able to increase the number of days the visitors stay in Kathmandu, we can enrich and enliven the number of days they do stay.”
PATA Nepal President Suman Pandey said he was really touched by the sense of ecstasy shown by the international bloggers to Nepal for instance the instagram caption ‘Dal Bhat power, 24 hour’. He also highlighted the fact that media innovation is exceeding and that we can now have more easy campaigning with maximum visibility.
Similarly, PATA CEO Mario Hardy said that it was absolutely important to promote youth involvement in tourism activities as they are the future who will be responsible for all the developmental works.
Tourism Secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari termed Nepal a gateway to the Himalayas. “Nepal is already a gateway to Lhasa, Kailash Mansarovar, and other Himalayan destinations, and also home to eight of the 14 tallest peaks on earth. ,” he said, adding: “People say that the world is made up of atoms, but I believe that world is made of stories, and many stories and million dollar smiles of Nepalis can be experienced here in Nepal. And who could share it better than bloggers and media as they are the movers and shakers of tourism industry.”
Senior journalism Kunda Dixit chaired the session by stating that this bloggers conference is probably the biggest tourism blogging conference till date that he knows of. “Nepal has a diverse landscape and is a very vertical country which makes it really different and beautiful, but lots of disinformation over the internet if picked by mainstream media would be really bad,” he added.
The owner of one of the most detailed and authentic blog about the Everest, Alan Arnett, said according to the polls that he conducted on his blog Everything Everest, many people wanted to climb Everest and there were some who preferred to follow the climb rather than climb themselves, as Everest is full of challenge and beauty. “Safety is always a primary concern while choosing guides and he states that a lot of progress has been made in Khumbu in regards to trails and tea shops. But, situation is not so in Everest. Basically anyone can climb and guide and the policies are outdated. This is impacting the perception of Nepal across the world therefore he urges the policy makers to make some concrete actions for it,” he added.
There are many steps needed to be a successful blogger with a wide audience and Archana Singh presented on how to turn your passion into profession, citing examples of Levison who by simple act of walking earned fame and Brandon Stanton who earned millions of fans by clicking pictures and sharing stories. “It’s about dedication and also knowing what and when to say and be good with pitching,” he added.
Damian Cook highlighted about the need of connection between the bloggers and destinations. Similarly, Leonid Myasnikov, NTB HPRR Russia and a licensed rescuer of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situation, shared his experience in promoting Nepal to Russia. He mentioned that the Russian people do love adventure hiking but prefer sea shores, as they get cold temperature most of the time.
Mike Shubic, who owns his vlog mikesroadtrip.com stated that 70 percent web traffic is for video. “Hence, it is really important to advertise through the video too,” he added.
Wanderlust is famous for the travel content they have and Phoebe Smith, editor of the magazine, shared that we break fears by traveling which breaks boundary. “We realize that we are the same really and that the differences we have is beautiful. Nepal suffered a lot during the earthquake, but did manage to improve the tourism scenario after the earthquake, but it is time to try to break free from this label and this conference would be a great start to it,” she added.
During this time when many rural Himalayan communities still look down upon girls, the 7 summit women team are making history and Shailee Basnet shared their story. Shane Dallas, pioneer of #TRLT talked about connecting with the customers. “Social media is amazing because even when customers are not using your product, you can connect with them. Content, conversation, community are the three Cs to be effective in social media,” he added.
Abdullah Tuncer KEKECI, the General Manager of Turkish Airlines – the airline partner for the event, stated that Nepal is more than mountains. No doubt mountains are our beautiful natural assets, but Nepal has so much more culture, landscapes and values, that need to be promoted too, he added.
(Picture Courtesy: Shankar Pradhananga)
Glimpses of International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference