Basant Raj Mishra: A global ambassador of Nepali tourism

Basant Raj Mishra

Basant Raj Mishra

Basant Raj Mishra: A global ambassador of Nepali tourism

Founding director of Nepal Tourism Board | Photos: Pratik Rayamajhi/ApEx

Quick facts

Born in Feb 1953 in Kathmandu

Went to Padmodaya School, Kathmandu

Graduated from Patan Campus, Lalitpur

Started the Temple Tiger Group of Companies

Husband of Jyanu Mishra  

Father to Brajesh Raj Mishra 

The Pioneers

I was born into a family with a bureaucratic background, but a government job never appealed to me. My interest was rather in business, to start something of my own. So I traveled to Europe after my graduation and took many short-term courses in business management, marketing and public speaking. 

Europe taught me that work is vital, not just for income but also to establish your identity. Ultimately, what matters is not how much you earn but who you are.

In 1977, I started my career in tourism. After working as an apprentice in a few companies for some years, I started a few ventures of my own in partnership with other like-minded people. Temple Tiger Group of Companies was established 11 years after I started out in tourism. The idea was to promote sustainable and responsible tourism in Nepal and we were among the first companies to do so. 

Nepal’s tourism industry formally started in the 1950s after Mountaineer Maurice Herzog led a French expedition to the Annapurna in 1950. They were the first team to successfully climb a peak over 8,000 meters. Three years later, in 1953, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary would conquer Everest, which made Nepal popular worldwide. Foreigners started coming to Nepal, and Kathmandu and Pokhara became the places from where they would head out to the Everest or Annapurna regions.

The country’s tourism industry was still in its infancy but it didn’t take long to flourish, as tourists began exploring other parts of the country as well.

In the late 70s, mostly, people from well-to-do families and those who could speak and write in English were involved in tourism. I was the perfect person for the job and I enjoyed it a lot. What tied me to this industry were the people I got to meet, which in turn boosted my interpersonal and marketing skills. 

When I was starting, many tourists used to visit Nepal through Indian travel agencies which considered Nepal an extension of their own country, which I didn’t like. My goal was to make Nepal a stand-alone destination. I collaborated with many foreigners to make this happen. In those days, I used to be outside the country for almost four months a year, meeting influential people and inviting them to visit Nepal. 

Basant Raj Mishra (left) and Robin Marston, managing director of the first trekking company in Nepal, Mountain Travel, during their Everest Base Camp trek in 2017.

also joined numerous national and international tourism organizations to promote Nepal. 

India was positive about our move and we worked together and exchanged tourists on several occasions. We organized combined cultural tours and both countries benefited. I have brought many international journalists, who were originally on an India visit, to Nepal in order to promote the country as a tourism destination.

These days Nepal and India lack the kind of coordination on tourism that we once had. 

I was also the first person to introduce the concept of tour escort in Nepal. Tour escorts were with tourist groups throughout their trip. I was the one to train five fine Nepali guides and send them with tourist groups as tour escorts for the first time. Nowadays, all the tour escorts are Nepalis.

Shifting to conservation tourism was my best career decision. In light of the prevalent climate change, Nepal has always been at the forefront of travel practices that minimize environmental waste, encourage conservation and educate travelers on the environment. Nepal is a pioneer in conservation, adventure and wildlife tourism. When it comes to wildlife tourism, Nepal is the Africa of South Asia.

I have overcome many odds to succeed in this sector. There are new setbacks and challenges every other day, but I can deal with them as I am a very adaptable creature. 

For example, at one time, our investments in conservation tourism sank as hotels inside national parks were closed down. It was a profitable but labor-intensive and fragile business. We learned from that experience and moved on.   

The Nepal Tourism Board was formed in 1998 to get the private and public sectors working together in tourism promotion. I was appointed the founding director of its board, which in its early years became a global example of successful private-public partnership.

But things have not been going well of late as the government these days does not seem keen on private-public partnerships. The Tourism Ministry has monopolized the board’s functioning.

Nepal is still a great tourist destination but we have to improve a few things. We need to develop our infrastructure and invest in marketing to put Nepal on the global tourism map. The other area of improvement is aviation. Tourism and aviation are the two sides of a coin. In the end, we have to understand that tourism could single-handedly take care of Nepal’s economy. All we need is the right approach.  

About him

Pius Raj Mishra (Nephew)

Basant uncle lives by the mantra: ‘work is worship’. Hard work has given him global recognition of a successful tourism entrepreneur and conservationist. He believes in a welfare-oriented society and helps people in need. Even in our own family, everyone rushes to him for help and advice. I retired at 65 but he is still working with great energy at 70. Kudos to him!

Capt Rameshwar Thapa (Friend)

Basant Raj Mishra is a gift for Nepal. He is the kingpin of Nepal’s tourism industry, especially of wildlife and conservation tourism. Many international organizations have recognized his works and he has been able to promote Nepali tourism through numerous international seminars and conferences he has attended. Mishra is like a family member to his friends and colleagues. He is helpful and always ready with innovative ideas.

Sanjay Nepal (Colleague)

Basant Raj Mishra gave me the chance to travel to Tibet and other parts of the world as a tour guide. In tourism, many people are double-tongued but he is what he is. If he is angry, he will show it to you. He is also open-minded, a quality that many lack. Most importantly, he is a determined learner. To this day, he calls me for suggestions. An owner of a well-established company, he doesn’t have to do that—but he does.

A shorter version of this profile was published in the print edition of The Annapurna Express on June 30.