The booming Nepalese tourism industry owes its rise to Boris Lissanevitch, a Russian émigré. At a time when Nepal was still a forbidden mountain kingdom, a Shangri-La out of bounds to the western tourist, Boris Lissanevitch did his bit to open up this mystical kingdom to the rest of the world.
Boris Lissanevitch was born in Odessa, Ukraine. According to his biography “Tiger for Breakfast” by Michael Peissel, Boris fled Russia in 1924 and toured the world as a ballet dancer with the Diaghilev Ballet Russe troupe. After touring the world for about a decade Boris decided to quit the Ballet Russe and opened an exclusive club, Club 300 in Calcutta. The membership at the Club 300 was exclusive and attracted the cream of the society. It was here that he got acquainted with King Tribhuvan, a frequent and popular guest at Club 300. The king, impressed with Boris’ hospitality invited him to his son Mahendra’s wedding.
Boris arrived in Nepal in 1951 and stayed on. He opened the country’s first international class hotel “The Royal Hotel,” in a converted Rana Palace. He later on expanded the Royal hotel to open what is now known as the Yak & Yeti Hotel.
In 1955 he talked King Mahendra into granting a 15-day visa for a group of 20 tourists from Calcutta. Thus Boris played host to the country’s first batch of tourists. The guests stayed at the Royal Hotel.
A ballet dancer, chef, hotelier, fighter pilot, tiger hunter, Boris was all of these, but chiefly he was a visionary who had the rare foresight to realize that Nepal had it in her to become a major tourist destination. More than half a century have passed since the arrival of the first tourists in Nepal , and during that time Nepalese tourism Industry has gone on to become the country’s biggest industry. All thanks, courtesy to one Ballet dancer from Odessa, Boris Lissanevitch.
Boris passed away on 20th October, 1986 and was buried at the British cemetery in Kathmandu.