Right representative of the country
Every country around the globe promotes their nation as a unique destination. They show cultural, historical, and natural beauty. It is hard for the tourists to grab all the information about the destination just through the internet. A local informer explaining the uniqueness of these sites in a local accent adds beauty to the tour. This is where travel agencies appoint representatives, commonly known as tour guides, who provide assistance and information on contemporary heritage, history, art, and architecture. One such individual in the Nepali tourism industry is Yadav Khatiwada. With an educational background in History, he started as a freelance tour guide in 2011. An English speaking guide, he is currently working with agencies like Yeti Escape, Natraj, Oriental, AK holidays, and many more. TNM had a conversation with Khatiwada to understand the business of being a guide and tried to explore his journey.
Always happy to pass his knowledge of history and culture to other people, he started off with how he got interested in the tourism business. “I live near Pashupati Temple and the airport was on the way to college. Seeing people come and go made me want to explore this sector,” he says. “I also had a friend who inspired me to work in tourism. That is how I ended up being a guide. However, I later took the tour guide course from NATHAM and got the license in 2011.”
Khatiwada looks back to the earlier stages of this career and says, “It was quite a challenge. The first few months after getting my license, I started as a freelancer as it was tough to be established with the agencies back then. The initial years were financially tough but I didn’t give up, I gradually grew and made my way through.”
Upon asking whether he preferred freelance or a job he smiles and answers, “Considering the time and comfort of work, I’d prefer freelancing. As an employee we have to be bound to the company rules but one can take breaks and work extra as a freelancer.” He further adds, “This is an airport to airport job. I don’t have to go to the office every day so freelancing is easier.”
“As a tour guide, one must have a broad knowledge about history, arts, culture, and literally everything about a certain place.”
It is definitely not easy to explain the uniqueness of our culture. Our art is a collaboration of Hinduism and Buddhism. The cuisine is also a mix of Indian and Tibetan. Stone and wood carvings, our ancient buildings, their doors and windows are no match to any kind of heritage in the world. As an art and history personal, it is not that difficult for Khatiwada to explain the necessary information. However, it is not the same at all times. Some tourists need a detailed explanation and some find it difficult to grasp all at once. Remembering one of such incident, he shares, “Some European clients can have a bit of a hard time understanding so, I have to go slow. Once I was with Turkish guests and I had a real hard time to explain the name of Gods and their different statues. I tried my best but they couldn’t grasp much. Some shook their heads but I knew they were still confused. It was a tough workday for me. Since then I try explaining with pictures and other methods to make them understand better.” He further says, “On the other hand, Americans are always curious. They want to explore more about eastern philosophy because of its uniqueness.”
For a tourist, his/her guide’s knowledge and activeness during the trip determines how well their trip will be. Many guides are not able to maintain such environment due to various reasons. “Guiding is not just about giving directions. Our new generation is not well prepared about the historic facts and other cultural information. As a guide, it is my job to maintain the spirit. It is like an accountant being good at accounts. Sometimes, I have to visit the same place twice a week. But it’s not boring. There’s always new energy with new clients right from the pickup at the airport,” he shares.
Sometimes guides end up being good friends with their clients. When asked if he has any such friends he met through work, he shares, “Once I had two clients from America who were both in their seventies. I picked them from the airport and we visited Kathmandu, Nagarkot, and Pokhara. During a hike to Majhgaun, it took them almost thrice the normal timing but we made a lot of memories. I did my best to make their hike a comfortable one. We shared about our lives and work and family so when they left it was the most emotional goodbye I’ve ever had.”
Khatiwada works throughout the year. His clients are mostly Americans, Europeans and Indians. He doesn’t have a headcount but he entertains an estimate of four hundred tourists each year. It could’ve been more had there been a suitable environment for tourists here. “Traffic is the major problem as foreigners are very punctual and we are always late because of the traffic situations. Similarly, public toilets and street vendors also create problems. The poor condition of the roads is also a major problem in the city,” he laments.
Besides being a representative of the country to the tourists, Khatiwada is also an active member of TURGAN (Tourist Guide Association of Nepal). He proudly stated that he worked as a Treasurer in TURGAN for two years back in 2016. “We work as a team to eliminate fake guides. We also work with tourist police to strictly monitor the tour guide license,” he says.
Lastly, Khatiwada shares his message to the younger generation who wants to be a part of the tourism industry. He says, “Every work is challenging. As a tour guide, one must have a broad knowledge about history, arts, culture, and literally everything about a certain place. Not just that, you must also have a good grip over politics in the country. Our country is naturally gifted and is rich in culture and heritage, so anyone with a strong determination can survive the industry.
Text by Yunish Dahal