Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Promoting tea tourism for achieving prosperity


Yaua Raj Gautam

Visitors to Ilam may get overwhelmed by the mystic weather. The tea herbs grown in such an atmosphere are equally mystic and aromatic. Considered as a tea heaven for more than a century, Ilam offers a blissful experience to travellers and nature lovers from around the world. The exotic culture and lifestyle of locals enthralls tourists.
With the increasing demand of organic tea rich in flavour, Ilam is gaining popularity for its scenic beauty and hospitable people. They are eager to establish Ilam as one of the major tourist destinations in Nepal.
With the country having many tea gardens, tea tourism could be a vital means to achieve economic prosperity. With launching of the Visit Nepal Year 2020, we need to make additional efforts to develop tea tourism as one of the vital products.

Time to act
As the country has gone for federalism, powers are being transferred to the local levels. People across the nation are now much enthused to highlight their original and unique products at the national and international levels. The constitutional guarantee to create Singha Durbar at their own villages has motivated people to implement their ideas for boosting the local economy.
Farmers and entrepreneurs of 10 districts across the country have already started tea farming. Other 35 districts have also been following suit. Tea connoisseurs and organic orthodox tea lovers have already begun to make Ilam as their travel destination.
According to the Nepal Tea Development Board, Nepal produces 25,000,000 kgs of tea every year. The country also earns Rs. 25,000,000 as revenue from the export of tea annually. Thousands of people are employed in more than 50 tea refinement factories in the country. Thus, the tea industry yields double benefit for the country. Besides supporting the national economy through revenue generation and creating more jobs, this sector is boosting tourism. Being a multidimensional industry, tourism contributes to the holistic development of the country.

Int’l practices
China is believed to have introduced tea about 3,000 years ago. The country has a museum dedicated to tea conservation and study in Sichuan Province. The jungle, from where tea was introduced for the first time, has been declared a conservation zone. The country sees a lot of visitors, including tea experts, from around the world every year. They are interested in learning about tea and sharing their knowledge there. China has already installed a ropeway for tourists to enjoy the serenity of tea gardens. Sri Lanka and Kenya are also famous for their tea gardens.
It is noteworthy that Japan has taken the initiative to turn its tea production sites into a lucrative tourist centres. For Chinese and Japanese, tea is not limited to a beverage. For them, it is rather an epitome of their civilisation. These countries organise ‘tea testing ceremony’ annually where tea enthusiasts gather to take a sip of unique flavours of tea.
A fine ‘A’ grade tea is served in such events where people can enjoy green tea, white tea, black tea and organic tea. Tea has become an important part of livelihood in these countries. Tea serving is taken as a major component of expressing their respect and hospitality to the guests. India’s Darjeeling and Assam are also famous for tea farming. These places host a lot of domestic tourists in every summer.
Tea enthusiasts encourage public to understand the health benefits of tea. The westerners are more aware about the benefits of tea. Thus, the slogan ‘tea is a healer drink’ has become highly influencing for the production and consumption of tea worldwide.
Tea tourism offers an opportunity for tea lovers to know about the agricultural and production process of tea in relation to the lifestyle of tea farmers. Even the university students and academicians can benefit from such programmes. Such visitors can also be part of tourism.

Tea history in Nepal
Tea gardens enhance the natural beauty of hills. Tea production started in Nepal about 150 years ago. This has now become a source of financial success at the local levels. It has supported livelihood of many people.
The then Bada Hakim in the Rana Regime, Gaj Raj Thapa, is believed to have brought the tea farming culture to the country from India.
Although people are making money from the fresh petals and stems of tea, which are very expensive, the natural beauty of tea gardens can be utilised to attract tourists. This can be done without making additional efforts. We have already started gathering popularity by supplying high quality tea to the global market.

Ilam in limelight
Ilam is probably the first tea tourism destination in Nepal. People used to visit Ilam just to see tea gardens. But scenario has changed now. Tourists need better accommodation and living facilities. Resorts and cottages have come into operation inside tea gardens. Besides, locals have started running home-stay facilities to serve tourists.
In home-stays, tourists enjoy organic tea made in home in a traditional way. One can choose to ride horse or take a leisure walk to enjoy their trips to tea gardens.
Ilam can be developed as tea testing center and tea festivals can be organised annually.
Ilam now possesses many resorts, hotels and other hospitality services. Antu Cottage, Kanyam Village Cottage, Chiyabari Cottage, Sundare Pani Home Stay (with 12 houses), Aantu Danda Home Stay (with 40 houses) are some of the famous spots to name.
Kanyam Tea Gardan at Ilam, Gorkha Tea Estate at Suryodaya Municipality, Ranitar Tea Garden and Kanchenjunga Tea Estate at Panchthar, North Nepal Tea Estate at Panchthar, Chilimkot Tea Garden at Danabari, Ilam, Soktim Tea Garden at Chisapani at Ilam, Tokla Tea Garden and Barne Tea Garden at Jhapa, Guranse Tea Estate and Kuwapani Tea Plantation in Dhankuta are some of the key tea gardens to welcome tourists.

Tea tourism needs to be taken seriously by the government. Specific action plans are required to promote this type of tourism. The tea farmers should also learn hospitality management skills to make their services effective.
The government needs to focus on offering subsidies to the gardens welcoming and conduct tourism-related training and workshops for the locals. The traditional tea gardening process can be developed as ‘open tea museum’ where tourists can learn about tea plantation and its life cycle.

(The author writes on tourism-related issues)