Nepali Times
Soaring on tourism

Growing up flying kites in Pokhara, Narayan Prasad Parajuli never imagined that he would someday open up a company whose business would be to make people fly like a kite above the Sarangkot.

In early 2000, when a foreigner offered to demonstrate to a few tourism professionals the potential of this new business, Parajuli(pictured right) signed up for paragliding lessons. He got hooked on the sport. Later that year, together with Swiss partners, he opened Blue Sky Paragliding on the Pokhara lakeside. Since then his company has flown about 2,000 flights, with the annual number going up every year.

"From October to March, Pokhara offers a natural venue for paragliding," Parajuli told Nepali Times this week after being selected as the paper's Company of the Month for May 2009.

The Himalayas act as a wall against the chilly mountain air. On any given day, as soon as Parajuli's pilots spot three to five eagles soaring above Sarankgot, they know the thermals are up and they are ready to fly. Pokhara's location above Fewa Lake is ideal both in terms of scenic beauty and catabatic winds that are essential for soaring.

Blue Sky paragliding currently has six instructors: three foreigners and three Nepalis. It has nine more on its register. "There is an element of visible risk with paragliding," Parajuli said. "At the start of each flight, we make sure that our Swiss-designed and Spain-manufactured gear is safe." The pilots are trained in all required safety procedures. During the off-season, the pilots get refresher courses in first-aid and other safety issues when they renew their licences.

Parajuli says that paragliding is not viewed as a tourism-related sport by the government. It's been characterised as a segment of aviation business. As such, Parajuli and his brothers deal with the Department of Civil Aviation for permits, licences and areas in which to fly. Blue Sky is even thinking of expanding to other parts of Nepal.

He has even done a cross-country test flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu which took a total of three days and a total of 22 hours of flight time. "We are looking to see whether we can reach Kathmandu within a day," Parajuli says.

Blue Sky flies paragliding passengers in Sirkot in Syangja and in Bandipur. There are now two established competitors in Pokhara alone, with two more on the way, so Blue Sky is looking for its own unique selling point by diverse locations.

"Locations such as Rolpa and other mid hill stations across Western Nepal have the potential to be paragliding destinations," he says, "but because they are so remote and under-developed that is a deterrent."

The company pays 50 per cent of its revenue to pay world-class paragliders to serve as instructors, 20 per cent on administration and 10 per cent on logistics. He is happy that as Pokhara becomes famous as a paragliding destination, more and more paragliders from around the world are adding it to their list of must visit places.

"There's a subculture of hard-core paragliders who are very much interested in making Nepal a paragliding destination," he says, "our being a member of F?d?ration A?ronautique Internationale (FAI), which is the air sports federation in Switzerland, has also helped us access the global market."

Parajuli said that Nepal has to differentiate its tourism offerings. One way to do that would be to market Nepal as a destination for extreme sports that are managed with an eye on safety and affordability.

Blue Sky Paragliding, Lakeside Pokhara

Previous Company of the month:
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
July 2008
April 2009

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)