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.
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.
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.