Back in 1998, I used to work in manufacturing hand made chunky knits for export to Europe, running an exports solutions company called madeinnepal. We had just landed a big order from H&M to supply the L.O.G.G (Label of Graded Goods) range of products, whatever that meant! My business partner Tim, who came into Nepal from the UK as a volunteer teacher, was always interested in supporting development in rural communities, and had managed to convince his old school to come to Nepal, to participate in a lovely curated Best of Nepal trip, but also add 200 dollars per person for the building of a school hostel in a remote part of Nepal.
The group arrived, had a blast, also got involved in spending the money they had raised, and a hostel got started and eventually finished. This impressed me quite a bit, this power that tourism held, to transform communities and really make a change.
A couple of years later, we were still manufacturing chunky knits by the thousands, when another group came in, again led by my partner, to do a similar trip, but this time raised money for a free cataract camp in a village in Nepal. I visited that camp, helped in the preparations and running of the camp as well, and that left a lasting impression in my mind. Over 1000 patients showed up, and the camp eventually screened and conducted about 225 cataract operations in makeshift Operation Theatres in classrooms of village schools. Patients who had to be brought to the camp hand held, went back on their own, singing songs as their vision cleared by the simple operation. We had spent the 5000 odd Dollars, in conducting a very very fulfilling camp, contributed by travelers in a cost plus model, where they had a wonderful trip, and added some money to help communities. I always thought this was social tourism, and the seed of the idea for socialtours was born.
When the bottom fell out of the manufacturing industry in 2000, mostly because of the maoist uprising in Nepal, I switched to Tourism, the industry I had seen which could affect education, and health, and really make lasting impacts in rural communities. An industry where you could really start benefiting the society which you relied on as a business. That was the birth of socialtours.
FUN FACT: The name was only registered because the domain name socialtours was still available.
Thereafter, to ensure that the company was based on a system of values, the first tasks was to develop a set of six values, an overlying vision statement and a mission. We are still guided by that, and everything flows from a very simple set of principles that concentrate mainly
As a business on proving a creative concept of linked prosperity - that translates on not vertically integrating and on spreading the tourism dollar.
As a service on maximizing the tourism experience, and a never ending quest on excellence of delivery, and of course helping the transformational power of travel
As a player in society to do all this in the most environmentally and culturally sensitive manner.