Marketing and Infrastructure, Equal Priority for Tourism : President Shah
Mr Binayak Shah has been unanimously elected 14th President of Hotel Association Nepal. He is the Managing Director of Airport Hotel at airport gate, Sinamagal, Kathamandu.
Mr Shah has been an advocate of heritage and indigenous food tourism in Nepal. As for HAN, he has served as the Secretary General and First Vice President before taking charge of presidency. We have spoken with him recently. The excerpts:
How has your journey been in the hotel industry?
I have worked at Hotel Association Nepal as Secretary General for two terms since 2012. After serving as first vice president from 2019, I have been elected as the president from April 28, 2023.
What is your vision?
We must progress from the past. We can improve government policy and do various programs to improve promotion, sanitation, hygiene, training, and HR management, branding and networking with global market. We can foster the culture of teamwork with hotels across the nation and help the hotels to sustain their business according to their need. And, mainly we must be acknowledged as priority industry that stands pivotal for national development.
What can the government do to help HAN?
Rules and regulations should be properly enforced such as paid leave for civil servants, a 1-month free visa, time extension to repayment of bank loans, restructuring and overall banking facilities among others. There must be programs to attract tourists, increase number and gain more business. And mainly infrastructure must be built so we can increase occupancy which is currently close to 25 to 30 per cent which clearly shows that hotels are not making profit at all. Air connectivity must be improved for the development of tourism industry in Nepal. This should be a top priority of authority to encourage private sector into tourism business and to sustain the industry.
Should we focus on infrastructure more than promotion?
Yes, both go hand in hand. They are interrelated and should go in tandem. We have done many promotional activities abroad. However, the mode of promotion calls for proper study and research. It should be reviewed to leverage maximum and long term benefits from our action. People in India want to visit Nepal in large numbers but agents inquire about government policy, which isn't properly enforced. Nepal now needs to act on infrastructural upgradation to prepare for tourism industry. We can't expect more tourists without basic facilities. Service and facilities are basic component of tourism industry, we all know.
What has HAN done for eco-sustainable tourism?
We have started a campaign to replace single-used plastics from hotel rooms by 2024. We have conducted a program on the same and the government has also already included in its priority. We are requesting the regulatory bodies to introduce some policies that support green tourism and promote sustainable tourism. Incentives, offers, concessions and relevant hold much meaning to encourage and orient the industry towards this goal. We will also make an annual plan and continue to implement this policy in this sector in close collaboration with government.
How can we make Nepal’s cuisine internationally known?
We have one hindered twenty five ethnic indigenous people whose dishes are disappearing. So, we have started a campaign to make 220 heritage food recipes. 28 among them can be made anywhere, especially by Non Resident Nepali Associations abroad. We can collaborate with the government to train chefs. We can also introduce Nepali cuisine like bara, selroti as airplane food for Nepali airlines. The Nepali embassies should feature Nepali food at their formal programs and in their respective countries. The 5 star restaurants should have one restaurant designated for Nepali food, while smaller restaurants should have at least one Nepali item on their menu. This is the beginning and slowly we increase the flow of tourists towards food tourism of Nepal.
How can the hotel industry expand in a decentralized manner?
We must provide quality value to the tourists who arrive here. Hotel industry in Nepal must provide world class service, specially targeting to international tourists. At the same time, we need to accelerate activities to boost domestic tourism. For this, we require more investment in our touristic destinations. Unless we operate hotels and resorts in those areas, the sustainable development can't be met. Commercially, the hotels opened outside or in new places are sure to make more profit as we all can understand the fact.
The country like Nepal having a lot of prospect of tourism requires more hotels in those places than in towns. We will plan and suggest new investments in such places.