Listing of non local trekking guides and businesses.

Trekking and the distribution of wealth

In the recent years the number of trekkers to the Himalayas has increased significantly. Trekking the Himalayas is best done with the help and support of the locals. So it is fair to assume that the locals would have benefitted the most because of the increase in trekkers, but that may not be case.

The increase in tourism activity has benefited the local economy in many ways as it means more transportation, accommodation and food needs, but it is debatable how much of this benefit has been realised by the locals. Especially when it comes to trekking and hiking.  I say this because a good number of organised trekking companies, especially the well known ones which rule the market, are based out of metros such as Delhi, Bangalore etc, who hire the locals on measly sums.

Trekking and Hiking a Technology Led Boom

I have travelled the length and breadth of Uttarakhand and Himachal and havehave spokento the local trekking guides and operators across the region. One of the common things I heard from multiple people is of a significant increase in the number of Indian trekkers in the last five years. The other common theme is of a downward pressure on the trekking price. I will deal with the downward pressure on the trekking prices in a soon to come separate blog.

The increase in the number of Indian trekkers in the last five years coincides with the rise in social media globally, which brings us to the obvious inference that - it is the increased awareness of the beautiful Himalayan landscape (along with easier access to air travel over the past decade), which has led to this rise in the number of trekkers.

The new age trekker is an online shopper, he started trekking after seeing the pictures or videos posted online by his trekker friend. The smart entrepreneurs saw this shift and had the first mover advantage. They designed slick websites, understood and implemented SEO and soon had customers throng them. They are the leaders in this industry now.

Technology is a great equalizer.

Technology helped the first movers become leaders in this industry, but it also created an inequality between the have and have nots. The actual service providers in the trekking business are the locals, who were and still are bereft of technology.

Facebook has been a sort of equaliser, and the smart locals are all over the travel and trekking groups online, fishing for customers. But it is a crowded place and has a low trust factor and is potentially unsafe.

I started sherpafeet to create a useful platform for the trekking fraternity which would give the locals an equal platform, the bulk of which is online. The second objective was to create a sustainable business.

Who is a local?

One of the first difficult questions which I had to answer was - “who is a local?”. I had to face this question when I met a trek operator who had settled in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand for the last 20 years, but whose skin colour was closer to mine. I spent a night thinking about it, and the most reasonable answer seemed to be - Anyone who holds a Govt ID with a permanent local address is a local. This seemed simple and good enough.

With this definition, when I went about talking to the local trek operators, I started getting requests to list a large number of treks on their profile, few of them gave me a list of about 15 treks of which some of it where in the adjoining state, this did not feel right. I then reworded the rule to - “ A local for an himalayan trek is someone living in a 150 km radius of a trek”. Now this seems to be working and is currently our definition of who is a local for a himalayan trek. 

For the western ghats, this may not hold true as travel times are much faster in the plains. We will cross that bridge, when we reach it.

Should we list non locals?

More recently we are getting a spate of requests from non local operators who want to list on our platform. Listing non local operators will give trekkers more options and will still be inline to our primary goal to create a non partisan platform for trekking and hiking.

What do you guys think, will it be beneficial to the trekking fraternity if we also listed non locals?
In the case we decide to list non local operators, do you think making a clear distinction between who is a local operators and who is a non local operators would be helpful?


Do let us know your views any which way, you could write to us at jai@sherpafeet.com

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