Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) is among the oldest establishments initiated with the purpose of promoting and asserting sustainable hotel business in Nepal’s hospitality sector. Started with just about eight member hotels in the year 1966, HAN’s influence has only continued to grow with 15 chapters, 2000 member hotels, and 350 direct members. HAN has been instrumental in spearheading the hotel sector and works in close coordination with the hotel associations of 15 countries, including China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, to name a few.

Binayak Shah, Secretary General Of HAN, regards the sector to be one of the very few successful sectors today. As the sector is known to be the second largest foreign exchange earner of the country, he believes it will only grow progressively in the coming years. He’s been associated with HAN since the past seven years.

In conversation with OnlineKathmandu, Shah talks about HAN and shares his insight in the significance of hotel industry and the growing prospect of hotel and tourism sector in Nepal. Excerpts:

HAN FAMILY

I believe, the presence of HAN has only grown stronger over the years as a guardian, mediator, caretaker, consultant, advisor, guide to the hoteliers of Nepal. HAN is looked up to by the stakeholders of the sector to assist them in making the best choice in investment for a sustainable venture and in guiding them to a better direction to uplift the standard of the sector in accordance with the growing needs of the changing times.

Training programmes on housekeeping, cookery, food and beverage, etc are some of the basic support HAN provides its members in keeping them on a par with the growing standards of the sector. Sharing information about the global standards of hospitality and understanding the current market needs is important for the sustainability and credibility of the sector. HAN is always on the lookout for new innovations beneficial to the sector and encourages members to explore other dimensions of tourism in local context, such as ecotourism, green tourism, gastronomy tourism, which is crucial in determining the kind of services and amenities to be offered.

HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM

Hospitality and tourism go hand in hand. The impression made by the hotel services does impact the guests’ impression of the country itself, since a hotel is the place where they spend more or less 50 per cent of their time during their visit. Even when the pollution of our city is what welcomes the guests, many at least find solace in the fact that they have comfortable hotel rooms to go to where they can relax and fill themselves with positive energy to look forward to the adventure that awaits them.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A HOTELIER

We are at an age of advanced digital technology. These days people have countless ways of obtaining various information about their travel destinations. Due to online reservation systems, they can choose to forgo the front desk formality and make necessary arrangements without having to speak to anyone. Dealing with people is a sensitive matter, and while we get to personally meet and know our guests only when they arrive at the hotel, creating a trusting environment, understanding their demands and keeping up with their expectations is an exciting challenge, which I, as a hotelier myself, have experienced. Even when the guests are behaving at their worst, we have to be our best and learn to take a sensitive approach to matters so as not to aggravate that frustration and help them ease into the atmosphere.

LINKS

HAN works closely with all its chapters and member hotels, and conducts regular meetings, reviews, follow-ups to ensure that all establishments comply to the updated standards required of a service provider. It is HAN’s duty and responsibility to identify and work to solve any prevailing issue and is also the link that connects the stakeholders with the government. Because not all government officials have fully grasped the know-hows of the hotel sector, it is up to organizations like HAN to lend them our expertise and create a favorable environment where we can work together to formulate new plans and policies and also point out flaws in the rigidity of existing rules and regulation for necessary amendments.

RISKS AND GROWING PROSPECTS

In today’s open market economy, it is only natural for big brand names to enter our country as well, but rather than being intimated HAN believes in maintaining a healthy competitive environment for the development of the sector. I am confident that our hotels are on a par with the global leaders of hospitality service in terms of providing quality services. There are already hotels of various standards all over Nepal that can satiate the varied tastes of the tourists.

In the next five years, the hotels here will have over 5,000 international standard rooms in order. Even though the rate of tourist arrival does not seem to be increasing with respect to the increasing trend of hotels, there’s a good reason as to why Nepal is seen as a profitable investment ground. The main reason here is the growing mobility of tourists from our neighboring giants–China and India. According to various reports, last year, 19 crores of Chinese citizens and 6 crores of Indians travelled as tourists.

Additionally, Nepal already has a huge advantage in terms of providing diverse experience in nature, culture, adventure, cuisine, ethnicity, religion, and more, thus inviting tourists of varied ages, interests and tastes. Say, in places like Pokhara, witnessing the splendor of majestic Himalayan ranges while enjoying a sub-tropical climate is a rare combination that can be experienced well under a budget. The package Nepal offers is one of a kind and does so while giving value for the money as well.

NEVER ENDING ISSUES

The sluggish nature of our country’s infrastructure development is no news. Our only international airport is incapacitated, the roads that could be a good connecting route for tourists from neighboring states are in appalling conditions, and the dust and air pollution has only worsened. Also even though we market Nepal as a value destination, the airfare to Nepal is ridiculously expensive. When all is said and done, we believe that if only the government would be more rigorous in implementing projects that could solve these issues and delivering results in time, the tourism and hotel industry could flourish even better.

Currently, the hotel industry holds the capacity to comfortably service about 25 lakh tourists. While it is good that the government is enthused about its plan to bring in 20 lakh tourists by 2020, nothing is going to change if the country’s bureaucracy doesn’t pay heed to the government and the infrastructure development doesn’t gain pace. While in 2017, the country saw only 9 lakh 40 thousand tourists. Going by the figures, the hotel industry hasn’t even used up half of its potential.

But that said, we are still hopeful of the development projects that are on the phase of implementation no matter how slow. The airport expansion project and the addition of several new airports open doors to greater possibilities. Millions of people travel to Mecca, Jerusalem for religious purposes every year. Once things are in place, I don’t see why destinations such as Lumbini would attract any less.

Also available on the II Issue of Online Kathmandu, Free E magazine.