The first ever Walking Workshop experience for tourism academics from around the world was organised in Nepal in May 2014. It was designed to look at the role social enterprise can play in sustainable tourism, with the aim of creating an inspirational event for tourism and hospitality educators who wish to become change-makers in their discipline and to transform the world for the better through tourism education. It was organised by the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University and the Tourism Education Futures Initiative (TEFI), working with the Moving Mountains Trust and with generous support from Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.

This unique Walking Workshop in Nepal, in many ways a facilitator for the TIPSE network, was a ten day event which saw academics travel off the beaten track to the rural villages of Bupsa and Bumburi in the Lower Solu Khumbu region of the Himalayas. The experience was designed to take participants completely outside their normal environments and connect them with like-minded colleagues from around the world. Thirteen delegates exchanged the traditional conference experience of quick and often soulless, powerpoint-driven presentations for the chance of real reflection, interaction and discussion, immersed in the issues of the region.

Whilst trekking on the mountainous footpaths of Nepal participants delivered ‘Walking Papers’ on their chosen subject and discussed best practice in tourism and social enterprise with local village committees. They also visited relevant, meaningful and hands-on social entrepreneurship projects developed and supported by Moving Mountains Nepal, as well as taking part in workshops delivered by adventurer, mountaineer and founder of Moving Mountains, Gavin Bate. Participants witnessed first-hand the transformational potential of social entrepreneurship and how it has positively affected life in these villages without negative impact on the local traditions of the Sherpa people.

Organiser of the Walking Workshop, Brookes’ Senior Lecturer and TEFI executive member, Roberto Daniele, said, “Beyond inspirational, this event was a model of transformational learning and community driven tourism. With immersion in real issues and community–led solutions at the heart of the conference, delegates underwent their own transformational learning experience, enriching their teaching methodologies and materials.

“This was about having time to reflect but with action in mind, a chance for real discussion that has already sparked meaningful changes to the way lecturers think and teach. Longer term, it’s about a more sustainable brand of tourism that safeguards culture and environments, whilst placing host communities at the centre rather than the periphery of the tourism value chain. There is a real need to build bridges between the world of tourism and that of the social enterprise sector and currently there is an array of funding and support opportunities to help fuel business projects that deliver the changes that are so desperately needed in parts of our world and indeed in the hospitality and tourism industry as a whole.

“In the longer term, TEFI, with support from the Oxford School of Hospitality Management, is exploring the idea of supporting a Moving Mountains Trust Himalayan College of Travel and Tourism, through its resources, expertise and networks, which will enrich the lives of those who live and work in the Solu Khumbu. This illustrates in real terms the innovative thinking inspired by this conference, not least in the formation of a new consortium of forward-thinking universities that will put social entrepreneurship and the local community at the heart of its tourism teachings.”