Regular readers of this blog will know that during the last year or so I have collaborated with Holiday Scout for several trips in the Northeast. So, today’s post about them and about the importance of having the right guides and operators in the region to explore it in the right manner.
While there are people who simply prefer to roam around on their own (I do so myself in most cases), most people actually prefer to have a planned itinerary and have it all arranged seamlessly. Especially if you are travelling with your family and exploring remote regions of NE, you’ll prefer to have everything planned and arranged. Here are some major points that I think you should consider while planning a visit to the region and why Holiday Scout fits the bill.
NE Can Be Complex
As we all know, the Northeastern region remained in the geographical as well as psychological peripheries of India for ages, and only in recent times, tourism has picked up here. Some of these areas have improved but many still remain remote and most visitors are curious but hesitant about exploring NE. Although some bloggers including myself have tried to disseminate information about the region, we must agree that a lot more needs to be done. I interact with people all the time who seem interested in visiting NE but can’t even locate most places on the map or know how to get there. This is why most people need help in exploring NE, especially if you want to go beyond those few known attractions.
Local Knowledge and Lived Experience is Important
I’ve always maintained that Indian tourism suffers from a lack of local involvement, especially in remote regions. Many online tour operators based in the big cities run tours without having any knowledge or understanding. In fact, some of these sites contain wrong information and photographs because none of them have actually been to the places. They may have a higher marketing budget but in any region, a local entrepreneur can go a long way. Holiday Scout was founded by Sange Tsering, who is from Arunachal Pradesh and has been to most parts of the region and knows what is to be done in which place and how.
Trustworthiness & Reputation
While looking for local operators, you should also check their reputation and track record. Holiday Scout has been in the scene for years now and has received many accolades over the years. Sange has also been featured as “One of 50 People to know in the Himalayas” by the Conde Nast Traveller and in 2017, he received the ‘Explorer of the Year Award’ by the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, the annual award for sustainable and responsible tourism by Care Himalaya, and more recently, he has won the North East Young Heroes Award in the field of tourism.
From a quick weekend vacation to long expeditions lasting for weeks, everything can be arranged by Holiday Scout. From accommodations to cars for hire, and from various inner line permits (In NE you will always need some permit or the other due to official reasons) to arranging all sorts of local activities, can be cumbersome if you do it on your own. A local operator can do it quickly because they have the right channels established everywhere.
Genuinely Offbeat Experiences
There those popular attractions in NE that everyone wants to do. But there are also things that no one knows of and can give your an experience beyond your wildest imaginations. I have managed to experience unexpected local hikes, nomadic yak herders, ancient papermakers, the last remaining headhunters, new uncharted detours and much more in just a few trips. This is what a good local tour operator can do as most generic tour packages won’t even tell you about these possibilities. I suggest you read my post about Offbeat Tawang on my other site. Many of these experiences were made possible by Holiday Scout. Now, Tawang is actually a better-known region in NE. If this area has so many untouched attractions, imagine how much is still remaining to be explored in other parts.
Exploring Local Culture the Right Way
While everyone talks about cultural tours, it is not that simple. You need to know the intricate details about local culture and traditions. You also need to know the Dos and Don’ts in remote areas because cultural norms are different in every place. Timings are also important because major festivals and events happen during specific seasons. A good local operator is needed to arrange such tours.
Network & Contacts
In a diverse and remote region like the Northeast, you need to have the right network and contacts to run tours seamlessly. Holiday Scout generally has the right local contacts from the remotest areas of the region. Finding local collaborators in the remotest of corners, arranging accommodations in unlikely places, coming up with quick alternatives when something does not work, all these things need the right network of collaborators spread all over the region.
Dirang Boutique Cottages
Well, yes, they have also started their own property at Dirang called Dirang Boutique Cottages. This has been built like the riverside cottages that are more prevalent in Himachal etc but rare in the Northeast. You can have a luxurious stay here and enjoy local hikes, monastery visits, and cultural activities including but not limited to making momos. You can read my detailed review of the propertyhere.
Giving Back to the Society
As a responsible organization, Holiday Scout tries to give back to society as far as possible. If you travel with them, you can also take part in some of these initiatives. For example, during a trip, we took part in a school painting initiative for underprivileged children in a remote area, and on another occasion, we visited an old age home where a solar water heater was being installed with help from the Holiday Scout. You can also get involved in a more direct manner if you have the resources. For instance, now they are planning a trip called Expedition Happiness, where the proceeds will be used for various projects for the betterment of local communities.
Sustainable and Responsible Tourism
I do not have to remind you of the importance of these terms in these times. Although everyone uses these keywords, not everyone actually does something on the ground. We had the opportunity of visiting some remote villages with Holiday Scout where local communities were being educated and groomed to eventually start working on sustainable tourism activities. You can check this postabout some of these initiatives. Even during other trips, efforts are made to follow the best practices, not to disturb local environments and not litter any spot. This should have been the norm anyway but as you know, that does not always happen in this country.