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In the Lap of Mt. Everest: The Namche Conference, May 24-26, 2003 (call for participants)

Ithaca, New York, Dec. 20 - /EWire/ -- The Namche Conference ("People, Park, and Mountain Ecotourism"), will be the highest international symposium ever held. The primary venue, Namche Bazar (3450 m; 11,320'), is the gateway village inside Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal; an optional Rapid Overview Trek will include visits to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar (5500m; 18,000'). While this remarkable setting will provide a point of reference for the conference, the scope will be truly global; the current registration list includes participants from every continent except Antarctica. (Prospective participants are urged to register online as soon as possible, at http://namche.info)

The Namche Conference is scheduled to coincide with three milestones in mountain tourism development:

The Jubilee Year of the first ascent of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Sagarmatha National Park's first quarter century of progress in natural and cultural conservation

The UN's International Year of Mountains and International Year of Ecotourism (2002)

The Namche Conference will include formal academic presentations, but the focus will be on dialogue. Members of the host community, and representatives of host communities from other mountain tourism destinations, will take part in all workshops and discussion sessions. The following are provisional focal areas; suggestions for other themes will also be considered.

Parks: The role of protected mountain areas in cultural and natural conservation as well as in ecotourism development; interaction of park administrations with local residents; institutional varieties and shifting structures; the role of NG0's and INGO's; local, regional, national, and international politics as they impinge on park function.

Security: Hosts and visitors are exposed to many hazards, including trail instability, various natural catastrophes, high-altitude medical problems, terrorism and other crime. Trekkers sometimes simply get lost. What can be done to mitigate such hazards? Whose responsibility is search and rescue? How can the public's need to be informed by reconciled with the economic interests of the travel industry?

Cultural preservation: How can tourism development stimulate ethnic pride? How can cultural traditions and arts function as tourism assets without undermining their value through commodification? What is the impact of cross-cultural contact on guests and on hosts?

Economic impact: What economic opportunities and risks does the tourism trade pose for the host community? for the region (including neighboring or buffering areas)? for the nation? What can be done to assure gender equity and to protect particularly vulnerable groups (for example, porters, children, subsistence farmers)?

Livestock: Impact of animal husbandry on the natural ecosystem (adversarial relationship with predators; landscape change; stress on vegetation and water resources). Manure management.

The built environment: Green building to improve local standards and to mitigate negative impact of tourism (fuel-saving stoves, alternative energy). Opportunities and risks of tourism-related infrastructure (including roads, bridges, hydroelectric plants, visitor centers, outhouses, and waste facilities). How to protect indigenous architecture, monuments, outdoor art. Zoning.

Marketing: Defining the target market. Commercial tours and independent trekking: maximizing the benefits, minimizing impact. Carrying capacity. Seasonality. Promotion/restriction of tourism flow. Heritage interpretation. Pricing. Quality control. Competition. Souvenirs. Commercial tours.

Education and volunteer work as tourism attractions. Impact of anthropological, scientific and other research.

Development issues. The dynamics of participation. Everest: the park and the icon.

The Namche Conference is jointly sponsored by Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation; Bridges: Projects in Rational Tourism Development (http://www.bridges-prtd.com); and Dr. Teiji Watanabe (Laboratory of Geoecology, Hokkaido University, Japan). Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey, director general of HMG's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation is chair of the NC Organizing Committee; the honorary chair is Junko Tabei, first woman to summit Mt. Everest (1975), first woman to climb the "Seven Summits" (highest peaks on each continent), and director of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan.

Deadlines: Abstracts due by Dec. 31, 2002; registration, payment, and full texts due by March 15, 2003. Fees: No charge for citizens of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations. Non-SAARC students: $20. Other non-SAARC nationals: $50.

Complete information about the Namche Conference and online registration form are posted at the conference Web site: http://namche.info

For more information:

Dr. Seth Sicroff Director Bridges-PRTD email: sicroff@bridges-prtd.com

Dr. Teiji Watanabe Associate Professor Laboratory of Geoecology Hokkaido University Sapporo, 060-0810, Japan email: twata@spa.att.ne.jp

namche.info

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