The Inspiration behind socialtours.com | How it all started
By Raj Gyawali (founding director)
We get this question quite a bit – how did it all start, why is it called socialtours? So here it is.
In 1998, while still working in the manufacturing and export industry, my partner and I facilitated the travel of a group of students from the UK to Nepal. The idea was simple: show these students our country and use the profits to help build a hostel for a school up in the mountains. We charged each student GBP 200 more than cost, brought in 20 kids, and raised GBP 4,000, which went to building the hostel. The trip included Nepal classics, the best whitewater, the best trekking and an elephant safari. It was a big success.
Two years later, we did it again, bringing in students to raise funds for a cataract eye camp in the villages. We raised USD 6,000 worth of medical support. Again a grand success.
Thus, the seed of social tourism was planted. Armed with this, in 2002, I set up socialtours.com travels, based on CSR principles, responsible tourism, value-based decision making, and three basic principles – be sensitive to the environment, be sensitive to the culture, and contribute to the local economy.
Today, we are a thriving business, with a sister organisation called socialtreks.com adventures, which focuses exclusively on trekking and soft adventure. We have 12 full-time staff and a stakeholder base in excess of 200 people.
Today we inspire guides, porters, and primary, secondary and tertiary suppliers with our responsible practices. We have never vertically integrated, instead choosing to spread the tourism dollar among hotels, restaurants, gear shops, transportation services, guides, porters, and airlines, etc.
We are at the forefront of responsible travel in Nepal and have been nominated four times for the prestigious Responsible Tourism Awards in the UK (World Travel Mart). We play a lead role in the activities and pratices of the Sustainable Tourism Network in Nepal, MAST, and the Fringe RT Network worldwide. We initiate new networking and joint marketing efforts, such as the Green Circuit in the sub-continent, and design off-beat products in Nepal, such as the Tamang Heritage Trail, the Chepang Hill Trail, and Shamanism Treks. We actively promote service learning in Nepal (focusing on responsible volunteering) and are working on the principles and management of Travel Philanthropy (which can be devastating if unchecked).
Today we are one of Nepal’s leading ‘soft adventure’ specialists, selling holiday packages and constantly working to improve ourselves and the industry. We are also one of Nepal’s first travel companies to work on a custom-made responsibility audit of our company, which finds indicators to measure how well we adhere to our principles and creates actions to improve on this.
Our Vision and Mission
socialtours.com travels & socialtrek.com adventures envisions a global community that supports social development through tourism. We are dedicated to the creation and demonstration of a new corporate concept of linked prosperity. Our mission consists of three interrelated parts:
To provide our clients with memorable holiday experiences through proper planning and implementation of tours and treks that exceed their expectations.
To initiate ways to improve the quality of life of a broad community: local, national and international, by actively recognising the central role a business holds in the structure of society.
To operate the company on a sound financial basis of profitable growth, thereby creating career opportunities within the local community and increasing value for shareholders and financial rewards for all employees.
Underlying the mission of socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures is the determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three statements, whilst holding a deep respect for all individuals and the communities of which they are a part.
All business that socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures does is based on the following six values:
Respect for every individual
Businesses are like families. Every person has a different role to play, which, when played well, creates a happy family. Every individual deserves respect and each and every issue that a person has requires special attention.
Honesty & integrity
Honesty and integrity are always the best policies and will inevitably pay dividends. An open, honest business makes steady progress.
Continued excellence in delivery
Quality should never to be compromised and can always be improved on. It is the strongest marketer of products and the only element that can create a lasting impression.
Social responsibility of business
Without the support of society a business cannot survive. Giving back to society is the only way a business can fulfill this commitment. Every business has a commitment towards society as a whole.
Money is never the only goal
Profits have to be made, but never by means that go against our values. Making a business successful is a Dharma (a spiritual good) for society and results in a good Karma.
The importance of environmental conservation
The environment is our greatest asset and needs preservation. Exploiting nature is short term and yields unsustainable dividends, whereas protecting nature is long term and yields sustainable dividends.