Tiger Tops: Sustaining the Brand Value
–By Gaurav Aryal
Tiger Tops is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. A brand known for luxury hotels and lodges nestling amid the most natural setting has passed through various ups and downs during these five decades. One of the prominent ones being denied to operate Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, inside the Chitwan National Park. It has however found ways to sustain the brand with two lodges. Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge in Nawalparasi and Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge in Bardiya are nourishing and nurturing the established brand name and its value.
All hotels and resorts inside the national park have remained closed since mid-July 2012 when the lease agreement with the national park expired as per the terms of agreement reached between the government and resort operators in 2010. The government denied renewing the leases citing the reasons for ecological imbalances and disturbance of wildlife habitat.
Affected by this decision, Tiger Tops started focusing on its two other lodges. The Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge located across Narayani River caters to tourists visiting Chitwan National Park. It was established in the year 2008. Earlier, it was a wing of Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge and was upgraded after the closure of Jungle Lodge. Similarly, the Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge has been upgraded to meet the standards of Tiger Tops after operation of the Jungle Lodge was halted. Since the lodge in Chitwan has remained closed, it offers its guests choices to stay in the Tharu or Karnali Lodge. Both of these lodges provide the same experience to that of the closed Jungle Lodge, says Bijaya Ratna Sthapit, chief finance officer of Tiger Tops.
Late Jim Edwards
Tiger Tops has adopted its growth plan without being aggressive. Recently it has built nine tented camps in Tharu Lodge, informed Sthapit. Similarly, a new building is constructed in Bardiya for luxury rooms. The rooms of Tiger Tops lodges are characterised by authentic jungle stay as they do not have air conditioners as well as TVs. Likewise, Sthapit says that new products and packages are being developed and will be launched soon. However, he denied revealing the nature of those products fearing the possibility of imitation by other operators.
As a court case related to the Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge is undergoing, the property inside the national park is not yet demolished though the hotel is not in operation. Sthapit hints that the company is trying its level best to get the lease again. He adds that the company has not yet decided what will be its next move. But, he suggests that any policy the government comes up with must create win-win situation for both the conservation of wildlife and environment and the business.
Along with its not-so-aggressive business plans, the Tiger Tops is planning to focus more on conservation. Based on the road map of Tiger Tops, the company is planning to establish a Bio-Lab that will help to genetically track tigers using DNA in Bardiya. Sthapit shares that the project is led by Dutch conservationist and academics and will be the first of its kind in Nepal.
Tiger Tops has remained the host of World Elephant Polo Championships, one of its kind sports held in Nepal every year, since 1982. The tournament used to be played in Meghauli, Chitwan but since the last two years, it is being held in Bardiya. The lodge has been facilitating the tournament by organising the event and providing international players a place to stay during their sports visit to Nepal. Every year, approximately 16 elephants participate in the World Elephant Polo Championships. All the elephants belong to the Tiger Tops, which are trained and groomed by Mahouts of the lodge. Earlier, also the elephants of the national park were used but that was stopped few years back.
This luxury game started by Founding Chairman of Tiger Tops, Late Jim Edwards, is played only in Nepal, Thailand and Sri Lanka, says Sthapit. Tiger Tops along with the WEPA federation use this event to promote conservation of elephants in Asia, especially where they are domesticated and used for tourism purpose. The main focus of the fund raising and conservation activities is towards the treatment and eradication of Elephant tuberculosis that has been a threat to private herds as it is highly contagious disease.
Though the game was exclusive to Nepal until few years, it is being played also in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Sthapit says, “With limited infrastructure at our Karnali Lodge and no support from corporates within Nepal it is difficult to grow the event that is limited now to 10 teams per year. We have used social media platforms to promote awareness about the event and drive fund raising initiatives through these channels.” He adds that the event is more popular abroad than in Nepal, as it is the official World Championship. “We encourage local government and corporate houses to engage with us to see how we could further internationalise this event and promote Nepal as a quality tourism destination,” he adds.
Bijaya Ratna Sthapit
Chief Finance Officer
Tiger Tops has expressed its commitment for conservation and protection of wildlife in the national park. Sthapit claims that the Tiger Tops that was established prior to the Chitwan National Park has a significant role in the establishment of this national park.. He explains that Jim Edwards had lobbied with the government for establishing the national park as a critical measure for the conservation of wild lives and their habitat. Additionally, he says that any staff of the lodge picks up waste material found inside the jungle and also informs the national park authority or the army men deployed for the security of national park about any sighting or incidents of wildlife.
Similarly, Tiger Tops properties use solar power, ox carts or elephants whenever possible to control emission. “Purchasing, employment and outsourcing are done as locally as possible. The construction of lodges is from local materials, by local craftsmen, and strives to preserve or incorporate indigenous ethnicity,” says Sthapit.
Likewise, Bardia Green Project is being carried out in collaboration with Yeti Airlines, Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge and Brindapuri Community Forest. The project aims to establish sustainable tree plantations as a carbon philanthropy project. Tiger Tops and other partners arrange community support, logistics and mobilisation for re-forestation and forest enhancement. Besides this, the organization is involved in various other projects for tiger monitoring, anti-poaching campaign, responsible tourism initiative and vulture restaurant.
Tiger Tops has contributed in educating poor children of Agyauli VDC and Kumarvarti VDC in Nawalparasi District by operating a primary school and providing free education up to primary level. It provides meals, uniform and health care to those children and encourages them for going to school every day and discourage dropout. Some students are also provided with scholarships to pursue secondary schooling as well as high school degree. In Bardiya, a Jim Memorial building is constructed and handed over to a local school. Along with these, Tiger Tops has been contributing to various programmes like The Duff Kennedy Scholarship Programme, Community School Support and Conservation Through Education..
Tiger Tops’ Journey
The journey of Tiger Tops began in the early 1960s when two travellers fell in love with the Chitwan National Park. Texan adventurers, Toddy Lee Wynne and Herb Klein decided to build a small lodge in the jungle and named it Tiger Tops. One of the first visitors of the lodge, A V Jim Edwards and Dr Chuck McDougal also became the owners of the lodge later. They were founders of Nepal Wildlife Adventures, an early hunting and fishing company. With Chuck’s passion for wildlife and Jim’s inherent charm and enthusiasm for life, Tiger Tops fast became a must-see destination for those
with a spirit of adventure. By 1974 the lodge had 22 rooms and a steady stream of American and English visitors, say the records of Tiger Tops.
Today, the Tiger Tops has its own property in Nawalparasi and Bardiya with eco-friendly environment and decent business turnover. The occupancy of the lodges during the peak season remains 70 per cent on an average. Both the lodges together have been employing 250 people.
•Ability to manage all wildlife activities
•Wildlife and cultural Experience
•Animal welfare center
•Expansion – property
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