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The landmark three-day conference bringing together international best practice in inclusive tourism for seniors and travellers with disabilities was organized at Hotel Shangri-La in Pokhara (Nepal) from March 29-April 1, 2018. IDI co-led with Nepal Tourism Board and in partnership with National Federation of Disabled Nepal( NFDN), Canter for Independent Living (CIL), Soarway Foundation, CBM Nepal, Four Seasons Travel and Tours, UNDP (Nepal), Embassy of India, Chandragiri Hills, Turkish Air and Buddha Airlines.
Approximately 150 participants from Asia, USA, Europe and Nepal attended the International Conference on Accessible Adventure 2018.The three-day conference focused on international best practice in inclusive tourism for seniors and travellers with disabilities. The conference talked about opportunities for people with mobility challenges for employment and experiencing Nepal’s tourism wonders.
The discussions kicked off with panel led by former US Ambassador to Nepal Mr. Scott DeLisi. Participants heard from Renaud Meyer, UNDP Country Director, Deepak Joshi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, Mr Shaurav Sharma, Senior Program Manager of CBM and Mr M. Keivom, First Secretary of Indian Embassy, Head of Education Wing who discussed the alignment of accessible tourism with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Inclusive tourism was identified as both a human rights issue and an opportunity for economic development in Nepal.
Inaugurating the conference, Chief Minister, Mr. Prithvi Subba Gurung showed commitment for accessible tourism and Minister of Tourism Mr. Lamsal talked about scope of tourism in the state #4. Mr. Deepak Joshi, CEO of NTB, along with Suman Timsina of IDI announced that March 30th will be observed as a “Accessible Tourism Day” each year in Nepal. Mr. Prakash Pantha, Member of Upper House,
Participants also heard from keynote speaker, Corporal Hari Budha Magar. Mr. Magar is a Gurkha war veteran who lost both his legs in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. However, Mr Magar hasn’t let his disability stop him from travelling and participating in adventure activities.
“I have kayaked, skied, skydived and climbed mountains all over the world after my injury,” Mr Magar told conference attendees, “I know I can climb Mt Everest and it’s possible. I will be climbing Mt Everest in spring 2019.”
Mr Magar further detailed his Inspiration and Perspiration odyssey to be the first double above-knee amputee to summit Mt Everest as part of his ‘Conquering Dreams’ tour in 2019. He also imparted some inspiring words of advice for the disability community:
“When some say adversity, I say opportunity. Know and accept yourself for who you are. Live like you will die tomorrow and dream like you will live forever.”
The conference concluded on March 31st with the inauguration of Nepal’s very first accessible trekking trail. In a historic move, Tourism Minister, Honourable Rabindra Adhikari, launched Nepal’s very first accessible trekking trail that has been modified for wheelchair users, senior citizens and walkers with mobility limitations. The trail offers a panoramic view of Mt. Dhaulagiri and across Mt. Annapurna to Mt. Manaslu.
Achieving accessible adventure in Nepal was acknowledged as a long continuing process and ICAA 2018 was identified as merely the starting point for expanding Nepal’s tourism market and making the country more accessible for all travellers.
The unveiling of the trail was the finale event capping off three days of lively discussion at the inaugural International Conference on Accessible Adventure 2018, held at Hotel Shangri-la in Pokhara.
The momentous launch of the accessible trail is considered a key first step in making Nepal the ‘Accessible Adventure Capital of Asia’. The tourism minister committed any further assistance to complete accessible trail, brand it and market. The trail inauguration was a perfect model of public private partnership and a great level of participation by local villagers. CEO of Nepal Tourism Board further emphasized on continuing to work on accessible adventure and appealed to celebrate March 30th as “Access to All Day”.