It was great to hear that Douglas Maclagan, Founder of The Pavilions Himalayas, earned the World of Children 2018 Humanitarian Alumni Award. We asked him a few questions so that we could all get some more insight into his journey to all that he has achieved.
When and how did the dream become a reality?
In 1993 when first visiting Nepal I realized the urgent need to provide young children and their mothers a second chance in life. In 1994 research showed that 1 in 3 children wouldn’t be able to celebrate their 5th birthday, and 1 in 31 mothers would die giving birth, both instances to totally avoidable causes. As a result, I established the first-day care health centres to provide care and health services to these target groups in December 1995. The dream came true after the Government of Nepal acknowledged the need and modelled out early child development centres in all their primary schools a couple of years ago.
For Pavilions Himalayas, the story started in 2011 after the passing of my mother who was a strong believer of the social work we were doing. She believed that we needed to have some sort of sustainability to support the continuation of our valuable work with CWS (Child Welfare Scheme). As a result, Insuba (my Nepalese wife, a health worker who worked for 18 years in the CWS projects), and I added available land from our neighbouring farmers and started to create our eco-resort in October 2012 till its opening on November 4th 2015.
Now after 2.5 years of operation we are into profitability, which is testament that the world of travellers really appreciates what we are trying to show – a truly responsible, sustainable model and a way of implementing and delivering luxury hospitality. Now the dream will be complete if this model is also copied by other operators so as to ensure we protect the very nature that is providing us the opportunity to make our living from.
What are the main drivers behind the concept?
The main drivers between both CWS’ service to the needy people and the philosophy behind Pavilions Himalayas is simple – to complement one another. The more you give the more you get back. In other words, if the majority of net profits we make from Pavilions Himalayas are used to support the social work we do with CWS, it will return in business growth as guests will prefer to have an experience in a local business that takes care of its own people, communities and country as a whole. The guest will leave something very valuable behind which will continue to the sustainability of our project work.
How many of you run these organizations (CWS & TP Himalayas)?
CWS is run by 10 people in HK and Nepal. They work with local implementing non-profit organizations in Nepal – a total of 5 partners, who between them employ approximately 60 full-time local staff.
The Pavilions Himalayas employs 41 staff, headed up by our GM, Mr Rajiv Shrestha.
Have you faced any challenges along the way, and how have you overcome them?
There have been too many challenges to name over the 25 years of operating in Nepal – in the social sector, and now, most recently in the hotel business line.
However, to name a few here, I would have to start off with overcoming the corruption which is at all levels in Nepal. The way I have tackled this is to never give up and the willingness to sacrifice a great deal of time to fight against it, even if this would mean to risk your own freedom by doing so.
Secondly, the needed skills and professionalism to exactly implement the social work, in particular, has been very challenging. For example, professional psychosocial counsellors to provide support and rehabilitation to formerly trafficked girls are unavailable in Nepal, so this badly affects the recovery process of the beneficiaries we are supporting.
Thirdly, businesses in Nepal haven’t caught on to corporate social responsibility. For example, recycling of plastic, or rather, trying to forbid the use of plastic and drinking water bottles is something alien. A start would be to teach the population to stop littering everywhere and that clean villages, town and cities would benefit the environment and thus their own tourism business enormously. There are 100 more examples but these are some relevant ones I feel.