‘It is fun to interact with tourists again. I learned a lot of new things and I am happy I can still generate some income for my family’
The last 4-months Nepal has been in a lockdown due to the threat of COVID 19. Many people who are working in the tourism sector in Nepal lost their job and usually that means no job no income. Also for the coming months, it is expected that tourists will not be visiting Nepal. How to survive in these difficult times? Manmohan Chaudhary (32 years old, nature guide) Balkrishna Tharu (28 years old, nature guide) and Ragubhir Tharu (27 years old, cook) who are working for Bardia Homestay in West Nepal will tell you more about the impact of the lockdown on their lives and how they are still able to make some income by conducting live virtual tours and classes.
What is your regular job and how long do you work in tourism?
Manmohan: I was borned and raised in Bardiya and since 11 years I have been working as a nature guide. The last 4 years I work for Bardia Homestay.
Balkrishna: In 2014 I completed my nature guide training and since that time I take visitors on a jungle safari inside Bardia National Park.
Ragubhir: I was very young, only 15 years old when I started to work in tourism as an assistant cook. Now I am a senior cook and I work for Bardia Homestay since 2 years.
Since the 24th of March till the 22nd of July, Nepal was in a national lockdown for 4 months. What is the impact on your lives?
Balkrishna: All of sudden we did not receive any guests anymore and our work changed. Now we work in the garden and maintain the buildings of Bardia Homestay. We work in a two weekly shift schedule. We were restricted for 4 months to go anywhere. Only food shops were open and transport was not possible. Now slowly the country is opening again.
Manmohan: It changed a lot. Many guides who worked at other lodges, lost their jobs immediately. Luckily we received from Bardia Homestay 100% salary till the 1st of May. After that 50% and from the 1st of August 25% of our previous salary. Less income means that life became more difficult. The money we receive now, we can only use for necessary things like food for our family and solving health issues. Normally, we received in addition to our salary also tip money from customers, and we could buy new clothes for ourselves or our family members. Before the lockdown we also tried to save money on our bank account for unexpected future expenses and school fees for our children. But now that is not possible.
What do you miss the most now without having any tourist visiting Nepal?
Ragubhir: I like to be busy and to make our guests happy with delicious food. Live has become boring and less interesting, because nothing happens. When there are guests, something always happens
Balkrishna: Yes I agree with Ragubhir, I do miss meeting new people and listen to the stories they tell and I miss taking them into the jungle.
Manmohan: The jungle has been closed now for 4 months and as a nature lover I miss spotting birds and wildlife and to share my knowledge.
Since the end of June you are a online host and you offer virtual tours and classes on the platform MyNepal.online. What are you doing exactly and how do you experience that?
Ragubhir: I am an online cooking host. Every Saturday and Sunday people can join my live virtual cooking class Dhal Bhat. I teach and show them how to make a delicious Dhal Bhat and in meanwhile the participants can cook in their own kitchen. I have a look into their pots and pans and I give them advice how to make their Dhal Bhat very tasty. In the beginning I was a bit nervous because people were looking at me, but now it is really fun to cook with them.
Balkrishna: I am conducting together with Manmohan live tours on the countryside like a Tharu farming or Tharu cultural tour. I recognize what Ragubhir is saying. In the beginning I was nervous too and I didn’t know how to present myself in front of the camera and how to interact with the customers virtually. However, slowly I feel more confident and I improved my English.
Manmohan: Yes I was also feeling nervous in the beginning. I conduct wildlife classes like ‘Encounter with the Tiger’ and ‘Bardia National Park ‘Wildlife & Birds’. It feels it gets better all the time. I learned a lot of new things like how to set up a presentation in power point and how to write a script. I learned how to use the Zoom App and Facebook live App.
Ragubhir: All my knowledge was in my head, but now I wrote my own Dhal Bhat recipe on a paper so participants have instructions before the cooking class starts.
What do you like about conducting the tours?
Of course we are happy that we can still generate an income for ourselves and our family Balkrishna says and Ragubhir adds that he is happy with the additional income on top of the salary of Bardia Homestay.
Manmohan: And we are all happy that we can still share our knowledge with foreigners Our virtual guest are asking many questions and it gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge in different ways.
Ragubhir: Yes, I agree and interacting with international guests online brings a lot of fun in our lives as well.
What is the impact you generated for yourself and your community the last 6 weeks?
Manmohan: We started the tours 6 weeks ago says Manmohan. Of the total proceeds 58% goes to the host’s salary and 20% to the community. But we also have two other colleagues working for Bardia Homestay (the driver ‘Jayram’ and the cleaning lady ‘Ramoti’) who are not able to conduct tours and therefore not able to make additional income. Because at Bardia Homestay we are one team and Ramoti and Jayram are part of our community, we decided as hosts that the total amount of 286 euro (78% of the proceeds) we share among all of us. We are really grateful for the support.
It means that all the 5 staff members earned this period 60% of their regular salaries with the virtual tours and classes Ragubhir adds. And of course we hope to welcome more participants in the month of August Balé says.
Why would you advise someone to follow a tour?
Balkrishna: While you can stay safe in your own country you can still learn about the Nepali culture and nature. Moreover, it can be really fun to bring Nepal into your home. I hope when the park is opening up again I can also take you on a live tour into the jungle.
Ragubhir: When you are following my cooking class, you can taste the Nepali food in your own country. And of course you make us happy by supporting us to generate income for ourselves and our community in these difficult times.
Manmohan: Even when it is possible to travel to Nepal again we will still offer virtual tours and classes, because it is a new way of traveling also for people who are not able to travel to Nepal and it is a great way to orient yourself on your journey and to get acquainted with West Nepal. We hope that in the future you can travel again and we are looking forward to welcome you in Nepal. Dream now, Travel later!
MyNepal.online want to connect Nepalese locals, who are working in tourism, online with travelers who feel connected with or want to experience Nepal virtually. From the 15th of August we also offer virtual tours in Tansen and in Bhaktapur.