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Bay speaker discusses Nepal travels

Addresses modern tourism

March 16, 2012
By Jason Raiche ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Bay College welcomed college professor, speaker and traveler Carole Elchert Thursday for a presentation at the Joseph Heirman University Center on the country of Nepal, its developing economy, and dependence on its booming tourism industry.

Elchert, a communication professor at the University of Findlay in Ohio, has traveled to Nepal 17 times, and discussed the country's culture and its reliance on tourism as part of her presentation.

When discussing modern tourism in a small country like Nepal, located in south Asia, Elchert said we must ask questions, using a pottery example to make her point.

Article Photos

Jason Raiche | Daily Press
Carole Elchert, speaker, traveler, and professor at the University of Findlay, in Ohio, answers questions from the audience at a presentation she gave Thursday at Bay College. Elchert, who has traveled to Nepal 17 times, spoke on the history and significance of the tourism industry in the country. She also discussed the culture of the Nepalese people.

"We have to ask ourself, 'Who's the potter?' and then we have to ask ourselves, 'Who's the pot?'" she said. "Then we have to ask ourselves, "In whose hands is the country developing?'"

She said the answers to the questions are very important when discussing and contemplating Nepal's future.

Nepal, which has eight of the highest mountain peaks in the world and a mountain ecosystem covering 80 percent of its landmass, did not originally draw in tourists for the Himalayas or Mt. Everest, which is commonly assumed.

Nepal's attraction in its first decade of significant tourism, between 1963 and 1973, was purely for pleasure, she said.

"They were souvenir and specialty tourists who never left the Katmandu Valley," explained Elchert.

Those who go to Nepal today are classified as adventure tourists, since mountain tourism is a big business for small countries like Nepal, where people spend significant amounts of money.

One reason why people like to be involved in adventure tourism include their desire for exotic places, she said.

Other reasons for adventure tourism include a desire to suffer, as people spend outrageous amounts of money to be at a higher altitude where they might get sick, as well as a desire for the authentic.

"We love to go those places that have somehow managed to survive in the modern world as they always were," said Elchert.

This brings forth a question of how and whether places like Nepal should change their nature to satisfy the needs of tourists.

The Himalayas stretch 10 percent of the distance around the globe and are a major force in creating weather, according to Elchert.

The country, which is about the size of Arkansas, is land-locked, rectangular-shaped, and is 150 miles long from north to south, and 500 miles from east and west.

Agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, and the country has two main religions - Hinduism and Buddhism, which she said share a mutual respect for one another and have shared rituals.

It has a population of 30 million people and is distinct in how it sits at the crossroads between the past and the future.

"Tourism in Nepal is not just about the mountains that surround a country the size of Arkansas," said Elchert. "It is a country that follows ancient rhythms in a modern world."

She noted the country is very diverse with many ethnic groups who speak more than 42 different languages.

"You can find the people are rising from the land to modernity," explained Elchert. "So it's a wonderful convergence point where different times and different worlds are meeting. Those are interesting places."

Elchert's presentation, which included photos she captured from her experiences in the developing nation, was sponsored by the Michigan Global Awareness Consortium - a group of six community colleges "dedicated to bringing global issues, international opportunities, and information to their campuses."



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