Sagarmatha was open to foreign tourists in 1950 after many decades of isolation. Annual tourist visit in the beginning was very less until government realized the potential of the region and started investing in it (World Tourism Organization, 2008). Since then, the majestic mountain ranges have become the centre of attraction for many visitors, attracting a number of tourists each year for trekking and mountaineering activities. The objective of this paper is to analyse the impact on the economy of Sagarmatha after the evolution of tourism industry through STEEP analysis. The analysis will attempt to cover key trends in each element of STEEP analysis and then demonstrate how the inter-relation of those key trends have influenced the economy as a whole.
According to Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, (2004), socio-cultural change relate to local quality of life and sense of place. Positive change in the quality of life could be personal income increases, improvement in the living standards of those more directly involved in the industry and diversity in cultural entertainment. A healthy social environment improves the sense of identity of a community or region, promotes intercultural understanding, encourages the revival or maintenance of traditional crafts and enhances the support that minority groups may gain from external resources (Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, 2004). However, if the social environment of a region is detrimental to the sustenance of human population, the repercussions of such a change will be local shops overcharging, more serious personal assault, loss of authenticity and loss of cultural identity to the outer world. The following is a depiction of the key socio-cultural trends that will analyse the socio-cultural climate in Sagarmatha, the evolution of those trends and how those trends relate to each other (Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, 2004).
Changing culture- foreign influences:
Sherpas are proud of their traditions and culture and continue to observe Buddhism. New wealth generated has been used for the restoration of their temples, building of new shrines, and expansion of monasteries which work in the strengthening of cultural ties. The number of monks in the local monasteries has also increased due to demand from rising number of families contracting to the religious domain (David, 2002). However, there has been an instance when a tourism is seen to hamper the cultural aspect of Sherpas. There has been instances when inability to maintain the respect of Sherpa’s culture along with photographing in the monks has angered the people. Another instance is when In the Manu Rimdu festival that is observed every autumn in Tengboche monastery, increasing number of tourists are a part of this festival resulting in tourist outnumbering the locals (David, 2002). As a result of tourist majority, many events are now inclined according to the predilection of tourists and locals have restrained from becoming a part of their own ceremony because the tourists have incorporated certain practices to suit their needs (David, 2002). While some of the religious and cultural festivals are changed according to the preference of tourists, others remain preserved as they were because they fall in different times of the year when the tourists are not around in the region. Monks in Sagarmatha region have also established popular art that has been commercialized with the westernization influence.
Increase spending on Shopping & Leisure time:
Another impact of the increasing foreign influence due to rising tourism has been a change in the quality of life observed by service providers, job holders of hotels, restaurants, grocery stores (Stanley, 2003). A complete revivification of culture and tradition was observed where the rising employment of people was a source of greater income generation, and people would use that income to improve their living standards. An example serving as a testimony to the changing lifestyles of Sherpa’s was that they started relying on importing goods from abroad rather than local consumption as they had become cautious about their health and consumption patterns (Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, 2004).
The inter-relation of the above key trends is suggested in the westernization of society at large. Together, these two socio-cultural key trends have had a lasting impact on the livelihood of Sherpa’s as demonstrated by a transition in their living standards as well as the festivities of which they are a part.
In Sagarmatha, technological developments have started gaining concern after westernization has propelled locals to live a better life. Thus, technological development is in sync with a higher standard of living and in determining international competitiveness. Technological activities include R&D activity, automation, technological development, technology incentives, and increase access to the use of internet, telephone, mobile phones and the new media (Karan, 2005). In Sagarmatha, technological development is still in its niche stages, and there are obstacles acting in a way of improved technological access. The key trends observed in the technological domain are as follows:
Limited Accessibility of technology and connectivity because of geographical location:
In Sagarmatha region, the limited accessibility of technological connectivity is demonstrated by ratio of communication to people standing at one mobile phone per 19 people. Landline telephone and mobile phone connectivity is only concentrated in cities of Nepal whereas the village districts are limited in their accessibility to proper mobile communications (Nepal, 1997). However, the affordability of mobile connections has allowed the tourists to purchase these connections whenever they come down for vacations.
Social media and web presence relatively accessible through mobile devices:
As technological concern started penetrating the region of Sagarmatha, 175000 connections were established in the year 2005 (Byers & Banskota, 2002). Social media was used as a platform to promote tourism in Sagarmatha. However, after the imposition of “state of emergency”, intermittent losses of service signals were reported, and internet connectivity declined.
Together, increased technological penetration in the region of Sagarmatha is important for promoting Sagarmatha as a tourist attraction site on social networking sites and greater tourisms will translate into greater income and employment opportunity for the people. Thus, the impact of technology on the overall development of Sagarmatha as a tourist site is very important.
The government of Nepal relies heavily on the economic development and growth of tourism in Sagarmatha region as a means of securing foreign exchange and stimulating economic growth in the entire nation. However, when compared on the nation-wide basis, tourism has only been able to lead to increasing prosperity and elevation in the living standards of Sherpa’s only as compared to the entire region. Example, while the annual per capita income of a nation is $229, the annual per capita income for most of the people in Sagarmatha is $1400 (Inger-Marie, 2003). Tourism is the only respite for people of Nepal to bring about greater economic growth. Other factors in the economy are responsible for the economic backwardness of Nepal. Its topography, lack of resource endowment, land locked position, lack of institutions for modernization, weak infrastructure and lack of proper economic policies act as an obstacle in the development of the Nepal region (Inger-Marie, 2003). The following key trends in the economic domain will further elaborate on the economic situation of Sagarmatha due to increased tourism:
Increased in Government Tax:
Changes in the tax rate clearly affect the disposable, after tax income of the locals and their spending pattern contracts. On the brighter side, more taxes would mean more tax revenues generated from the tourists (Inger-Marie, 2003). Tourist receipts are important from the perspective of development and growth, because tourism activities cannot grow without the government initiative for infrastructure development. When tourism starts generating additional tax revenues, jobs and income in the economy, government expenditure on developing tourist industry and tourism attraction sites increases.
Slow increase in economy:
Substantiating the earlier, only the Sagarmatha region is benefited by a spur in the tourist industry. The entire region of Nepal exhibits lower economic growth because of topography, lack of resource endowment, land locked position, lack of institutions for modernization, weak infrastructure and lack of proper economic policies (World Tourism Organization, 2008). Nepal’s rates of economic growth has been unsatisfactory since the last four years. Growth has been erratic from a negative 0.3 percent to 2.4 percent in 2005 with lots of fluctuations in between (Inger-Marie, 2003). Also, while some households are benefited by rising income, others are suffering from increasing inflationary pressures due to a rise in the demand and prices of local goods.
Interest rate- very low:
Interest rates in Nepal revolve around the 3-5% (Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, 2004). While lower interest rates would create incentives to borrow capital for the development of region, hotels and lodges, it deters foreign direct investment because of lower promised returns.
Out of all the economic trends analysed above, increase in government taxes have major bearings on the development of Sagarmatha region. The rising receipts from tourism sector can be mobilized for the infrastructure development and making Sagarmatha an attractive tourist destination.
Realizing the gains from tourism, government of Nepal is geared to the enhancing tourism industry in Sagarmatha without noticing the repercussions that it bears upon the environmental sustainability of the region. The following key trends represent the transition of the environment as a result of rising tourism:
Erosion due to increased numbers of visitor traffic, and water usage:
Sagarmatha has suffered from soil erosion. Air and water pollution represent other environmental problems in Sagarmatha region. According to United Nations, the nation produces 18000 tons of carbon monoxide and 3300 tons of hydrocarbons per year (Stanley, 2003). Roughly one third of the nation’s inhabitants and two third of the rural dwellers do not have pure water, and use of contaminated drinking water creates health hazards.
In Sagarmatha, there are many tourist destinations with pristine and fragile natural ecosystems. Before nationalization of forest, local people operated traditional forest management systems based on Buddhist believe to obligate people to protect local forests and appointed forest guards (Shigeru, 2005). After the management of local resources was undertaken by central authorities, local people felt alienated from the forest and felt their traditional obligation. From the times tourism got established, the demand for firewood rose as it continued to be the main source of fuel energy used for cooking, heating (Shigeru, 2005). The major destructors of forest were the lodge owners who used four times the amount of fuel used by the local Sherpa household because firewood was used for campfires in lodges. Despite of the restrictions imposed, local people continued to use fuel wood for tourists for high economic returns (Shigeru, 2005).
The inter-relation of these key trends is suggestive of the realization that tourism industry has had a destructive impact on the environment of Nepal in general and Sagarmatha in specific. Both of these key trends are important is causing deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution in the region.
The political situation in Nepal is quite rock as many demonstrations and strikes continue to take place. The political landscape is sharply divided between the royalists and maoits who spend considerable amount of time trying to obstruct the other wing out of the country’s governments (Ivan, Dennyse, Vincanne, 2004). Therefore, one may exhibit ongoing terrorist attacks and other violent demonstrations in the country that hampers the security of the tourists. The following key trend in the political analysis will demonstrate a change in political climate of Sagarmatha from the incidence of a tourism.
Unstable Government, weak political institutions:
After the incidence of a tourism, men who were previously non-plus and not of any importance have gained considerable importance due to the rising influence of tourism industry on the economy of Nepal. Men who used to work as expedition leaders, lodge keepers have evolved as political leaders in the area. Official positions in villages and temples are often covered by people employed in tourism or operating tourism business (Byers & Banskota, 2002). Status of wealthy Sherpa traders has been replaced by Sherpas, who were involved in tourism. Communities in Sagarmatha have come to believe that evolution of tourist guides as political leaders has affected political activities in the region.
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