Snowlion Tours is a grassroots Tibetan travel company established by Wangden Tsering, a Tibetan entrepreneur with extensive experience managing travel agencies and organizing tours in Tibet and mainland China. The company is based in the Amdo region of Tibet, with offices in Xining and Lhasa and is committed to providing high-quality, environmentally sustainable travel services with a Tibetan touch.
Wangden: “We provide environmentally sustainable travel services in Tibet. The ecosystem on the Tibetan plateau is extremely fragile. We desire to see our Tibetan culture and traditions last for generations to come, so we do our utmost to arrange travel in the most ecologically friendly way possible.
We work to improve the livelihoods of local Tibetans through tourism. The tourism industry is one of the most important and beneficial businesses in Tibet, but most travel companies in Tibet are run by Han Chinese or foreigners. We established this company to foster Tibetan entrepreneurship, help local farming and nomadic communities, and create jobs for local Tibetans. We also regularly donate a portion of our profits to the Kumbum Shambaling Orphanage in Xining.
As part of the mission of Snowlion Tours, we aim to improve the welfare of Tibetans by supporting local communities in meaningful ways. Through creating jobs, buying directly from local farmers and small businessmen, passing on daily necessities to nomad families, and donating to a nearby orphanage, we strive to integrate our social engagement into our business practices. While we welcome individuals who are interested in participating in some of these endeavors, we take care not to impose any obligations on them. Our community work is private in nature and remains separate from our pricing.”
Kumbum Shambaling Orphanage School
Established in 2004 by Samdrip Tsering, a Tibetan scholar and artist, the Kumbum Shambaling Orphanage School is home to 75 Tibetan orphans. The mission of the orphanage is not only to support orphans but also to preserve traditional Tibetan culture by educating children in traditional thangka painting, embroidery, and stone carving. Additionally, students may take classes in Tibetan, Chinese, English, basic computer, and other subjects. Already 120 have graduated from the school and now live independently. However, despite the school’s success, it is severely lacking in facilities and financial support.
Wangden “At SnowLion Tours, we work to help raise money for the school, donate winter clothing, introduce homeless children to the school, and assist in getting the young artists’ paintings on the market. We regularly visit the students and visitors to Xining are welcome to join us on a trip there.”
Working with Nomad Families
Wangden: “On our trips we frequently visit nomad families in order to share our local culture with visitors to Tibet. Nomads are known for their generous hospitality and do not ask anything in return for our visits. Nonetheless, as a way of practicing responsible tourism, we pass on to them daily necessities for life on the harsh Tibetan plateau. Fresh fruits and vegetables are welcome gifts to those who live far from town, thick clothes and blankets provide warmth in winter, and sunglasses help nomads protect their eyes against damage from sun exposure. We also donate cooking stoves after camping trips, as the nomads find these small stoves immensely helpful.”
Wangden “Whenever possible, we buy our goods directly from farmers, nomads, and local businessmen. Through the practice of buying locally, we help preserve the environment, bolster the local economy, and strengthen our community. We encourage visitors to Tibet to join us in this endeavor by patronizing local Tibetan businesses.”
Wangden: “All guides, drivers, porters, yak handlers, and cooks we hire are local Tibetans. Working as a guide offers young Tibetans an opportunity to earn a living while sharing their intimate knowledge of local culture. Nomads who serve as our porters and yak handlers have a chance to supplement their incomes while providing essential services for our hiking trips. We ensure that all of our staff are treated well and paid fairly. In the instances that we hire non-locals, we select them on the basis of their expertise and long experience in Tibetan regions.”
Protecting the Environment
Wangden: “The ecosystem on the Tibetan plateau is extremely fragile. We desire to see our Tibetan culture and traditions last for generations to come, so we do our utmost to arrange travel in the most ecologically friendly way possible. We teach Leave-No-Trace principles and conduct site clean-ups after camping. Please join us in minimizing the environmental and cultural impact we have when traveling.
Let us show you the real Tibet!”
- First Aids and Eco-Tourism on Tibetan Plateau (Given by Columbia University in Xining), November 2012
- Health, Hygiene, and Self-Problem Solving in Tibetan Communities (through the World Health Organization and Red Cross), July 2008
- Tour Guide Training (given by the Qinghai Tourism Bureau), September 2007
- Plateau Geology (given by Lifewater International Org.), June 2006
- Tibetan Community Training: Safe Water Supplies (given by Lifewater International Org.), June 2005
- Community Problem-Solving and Health Education (CHE) (given by Norserve Foundation), September 2004
- Manager Skill Training (given by Asia Development Management Group), May 2003
SnowLion Tours have been giving various trainings to our office staff, guides and drivers. The topics are: office management, basic computer skills, customer service (mainly how to reply tours inquiries by emails, phone and person to person), Eco-Tourism, first aid and waste management.