The Wounded Heros: Inclusive Tourism opportunities in Nepal

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The recently celebrated World Tourism Day that falls the 27th September of each year, showed how far Nepal can go in terms of inclusive partnerships.

Under the theme of “Tourism for All”, the World Tourism Day offered a unique opportunity to talk about social inclusion and disability in Nepal, an issue much neglected and hardly mainstream.

In an attempt to make the country a fully accessible destination, a coalition of not for profits, ethically conscious tour operators and individual citizens, organized the “Wounded Heroes Trek to Nepal”, bringing to the country twenty three American citizens who, due to different circumstances,  suffered amputation during their careers.

The visitors, currently undertaking a trekking in the Annapurna region, will become global “ambassadors” of Nepal, an amazing way to showcase the potential of the national tourism industry, proving that tourists with physical disabilities are welcome in the country.

Despite the shocking set back at life, the “Wounded Heroes” proved how human beings, when pushed to their limits, can be an example of extraordinary resilience and determination to push back and reclaim a dignified role in the society.

Might it paradoxically true that we need foreign visitors with disabilities visiting Nepal with their bold determination, to assert that this country can really become more accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities?

What is even more striking is the network of partnerships that worked incessantly to make this adventurous trip possible. 

On the one hand, we had tour operators like Four Seasons Travel and Tours, a pioneer travel company based in Nepal that few years ago realized the potential of “inclusive” travel, a niche sector that could literally transform in better the way tourism sector works in the country. 

On the other hand we have the not for profit sector with the International Development Institute, a small “action tank” based in Washington DC and two smart examples of innovative corporate social responsibility, without which the entire initiative would not have been possible.

First of all, Soarway Foundation founded by Michael Kobold, the owner of the luxurious watch brand currently directed by Scott DeLisi, a former American ambassador to Nepal, provided vital moral and financial support to the idea.

Second, all the organizers managed to involved a global airline like Etihad who had recently showed a great sensitivity towards disability by sponsoring the trip of the Nepali parathletes to Rio de Janeiro.

Last but not the least this incredible network of partnership also includes committed and active community organizers of Nepali origin living in the USA.

For example Suman Timisina, a former president of the Non Resident Nepali Association in North America and Mukesh Singh, a legal expert and disability activist, both members of the expedition, played an incredibly important networking role to raise the resources for the trip.

In a sharing program, the organizers rightly expressed their satisfaction in making the long trip possible but at the same time, encouraged the government to do more to truly mainstream tourism for persons with disabilities into the national plans.

The participation at the program of Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board was seen as a sign of optimism that the government is serious about inclusive tourism.

What we need is a dedicated and partnership driven effort to make it more accessible by breaking down cultural, institutional and physical barriers for persons living with disabilities.

After all the concept of “reasonable accommodation” should  not remain abstract but rather put in practice, meaning , in this particular case, that, with simple adjustments and willingness, is possible to design touristic offers that suits to persons with any kind of disabilities.

The Wounded Heroes were strategically supported with not for profit money but the entire initiative  would not have been possible without the limitless optimism and business acumen of Pankaj Pradhananga, one of the key masterminders of the entire initiative and Director of Operations at Four Seasons Travel and Tours.


If you think well, it is not easy thing securing the funding for such a big adventure from all the points of views.


Coordinating for such initiative involved a great exercise in public relations and networking that allowed to liaise successfully with local and central authorities and partners, assuring the involvement of the Nepal Tourism Board and the American Embassy as well.


All this was only possible thanks to ability to build connections, a fantastic team building and a genuine interests and willpower to make the initiative happen.


Building on this incredible best practice, ensuring that the tourism industry can become a real trailblazer in inclusive business in the country won’t be easy.


Surely the“coalition of  the willing” behind “Wounded Heroes Trek” will push ahead to transform the way many tourists from all over the world till now excluded, can experience and discover Nepal.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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