Boris Lissanevitch – Pioneer of Nepalese Tourism Industry

Boris Lissanevitch – Pioneer of Nepalese Tourism Industry

Posted Dec 15th, 2008 under Company News,

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.

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  1. Thank you Team; for keeping my grandfather’s memory alive.
    Regards and Christmas Greetings form Australia,

    - Boris Lissanevitch Jr.
  2. Greetings to Boris Lissanevitch Jr from the U.S.

    A weird thread led me to surf the net for your grandfather. On Christmas Eve we watched a film “The Russians are Coming”. Theodore Bikel plays the role of submarine commander in the film so I dug out my LP and listened. This brought me back to 1960/61 when I first heard this album. It was in the penthouse of the Royal, sitting with Sir Edmund Hillary and a few other climbers. Boris spun endless yarns and kept playing the Bikel recording. I will always remember that evening with Boris and wanted you to know that his memory lives on. I was delighted to learn that a part of Boris also lives on in Oz. Best regards; perhaps our paths will cross someday.

    - Tom Nevison
  3. In 1958 I, with 4 friends, drove from London to Kathmandu. Recently I have been reading again my diary of the trip and the wonderful time (3 weeks) that we spent with Boris and Inger. I have a degree in agriculture and Boris spent much time with me discussing crops and especially his pigs.
    I well remember their two young sons and especially Inger’s mother Ma Scott who was a real character.
    Boris put us up in the Royal for nearly 3 weeks and refused to take payment from us. He arranged (fought!!) with the Government to allow us to sell the Landrover to Father Moran.
    Father Moran and Boris were a most formidable team and their contribution to Nepal, in both tourism and education was remarkable.
    Re-reading my diary made me want to chase up and see if it was possible to make contact with Inger.
    The most amasing thing is that I found that Boris (jnr) had lived in Melbourne where I live.
    I would love to make contact with any member of the Lissanevitch family.
    My email address is

    - Noel Levin

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