‘I will stop politicization of TAAN’

Nabaraj Dahal is the newly elected president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). The seasoned trekking entrepreneur, who is also the managing director of Nepal Environmental Treks, served as the general secretary of the association some years before. Dahal is also the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Estonia for Nepal. Kishor Basnyat […]

NabarajNabaraj Dahal is the newly elected president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). The seasoned trekking entrepreneur, who is also the managing director of Nepal Environmental Treks, served as the general secretary of the association some years before. Dahal is also the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Estonia for Nepal. Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress recently talked to Dahal on different issues related to Nepali trekking industry and his future plans. Excerpts:

You have been elected as the president of TAAN. How does it feel?

I am thankful to all valued members who elected me to the post. As I served as the general secretary of the association previously, I know this institution up close. The association is facing financial as well as several other problems. I felt that somebody should go there, clean up all the mess and develop TAAN as a professional body of Nepali tourism industry. That is why I should desire to run for the post. TAAN members believed me and elected to the post. Now, I, along with my team, must improve state of affairs at TAAN and tell our members that we successfully worked as per their mandate.

 

What do you think are the problems that Nepali trekking sector is facing at present?

There are plenty of problems in the trekking sector. The new executive committee will study all the problems; categorize problems that can be addressed in the short-term and long-term. We will take immediate initiatives to address problems that can be addressed immediately. One of them is controlling illegal operation of trekking business. Trekkers and tour leaders as well as NGos are are operating groups here. They are eating into business of duly registered government agencies who are paying taxes to the government. This should end. Similarly, we will lobby with the government to introduce a provision that requires trekkers to take at least a guide or porter with them. It will ensure security of trekkers as well as create employment for Nepali youths and in the long run control unauthorized operation of trekking business.

Trekkers and tour leaders as well as NGos are are operating groups here. They are eating into business of duly registered government agencies who are paying taxes to the government. This should end.

Trekking trails are shortening with the construction of roads. Trekking package are shortening which means less revenue for trekking agencies and government. We will work to identify and promote new trekking trails.

There is also confusion regarding VAT and taxation. We will lobby with tax authorities to make VAT and taxation process easier.

 

TAAN has not been able to use TIMS revenue due to alleged misuse of fund by previous authorities. What are you doing in this regard?

It is true that TAAN has not been able to use its share from TIMS funds. Government officials say it is due to misuse of the fund by previous executive committees. We will study to see if there were any shortcomings from TAAN side.

As a trekking entrepreneur and the president of TAAN, I am clear in one thing. That is TAAN should be allowed to use the fund as we have planned various works including welfare of trekking support staff from this fund. We will form a committee to study the issue. The committee will hold discussions with government agencies and try to find an amicable solution. Our promotion activities have been affected and we have not been able to settle bills of rescue with helicopter companies.

We will address if there are arny shortcomings in implementation of TIMS. The trekking industry needs TIMS.

 

What is your observation on imposition of tourism tax by Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality?

Whether or not local bodies can impose new tax is a different thing. All should follow the rules set by central government. I think the local body took the decision in haste. They imposed the fee without holding needful discussion with concerned stakeholders. The rural municipality even asked trekkers not to pay TIMS. How can it do that?

The issue has been put on hold for the time being on the direction of the federal affairs ministry. We will hold talks with the local body, tourism ministry, and federal affairs ministry to find amicable solution to the issue.

You are the Consul General of Estonia in Nepal. How do you think TAAN should promote economic diplomacy?

As someone from the consular corps, I have been playing needful role to promote economic diplomacy in national and international forums that I participate. Now that I have been elected as the president of TAAN, I will hold discussion with other members of the consular corps as well as the diplomatic corp on how can we improve our service quality and bring high end tourists to Nepal. I will encourage them to do their bits for promotion of economic diplomacy. We will also request the concerned government agencies to mobilize diplomatic missions stationed abroad to promote economic diplomacy.

 

Travel trade associations are heavily politicized. Even candidates are selected by political parties. Is this good?

Political parties have opened their tourism units. And these units become active while selecting leadership of their representative bodies. I won’t comment on what happened in the past. But it will end now. I would like to assure one and all that we will move TAAN forward as a professional body of trekking entrepreneurs. I am already told my friends in the executive committee that we should shed our political affiliations and make sure that our political affiliations will in no way affect the day to day functioning of TAAN. I am also affiliated with a political party. But it is not necessary that I have to follow the instruction of my party in TAAN. Leadership of all travel trade associations should take similar stance.

 

As the country has adopted federal set up, don’t you think TAAN should also be decentralized?

Definitely. TAAN needs to be decentralized. An association cannot be expected to function in existing set up when the country has adopted federal set up. But before that, we need to diversify trekking and mountaineering activities from Everest, Annapurna and Langtang regions to other parts of the country. Our far east, middle west and far west have immense tourism potentials. But they are not being exploited in the lack of proper attention by the government agencies and to some extent private sector. We already have a chapter in Pokhara. Efforts will be made to open chapters in all seven provinces. We will definitely take needful decisions in this regard.

 

Any parting remarks?

We are very serious about well-being of trekking and mountaineering workers. Trekking entrepreneurs should create a respectable working environment, giving them better equipment, providing them better salary and benefits. Today, foreigners do business with only individuals or institutions who are doing ethical or responsible business. We will make our members aware of the needs to take proper care of trekking support staff. Trekking support staff also should stop putting undue pressure on employers. TAAN and NTB have agreed to allocate certain share of TIMS fund for welfare for workers. WOrkers should put pressure on the government and the NTB for appropriate use of funds meant for trekking workers.

We will make our members aware of the needs to take proper care of trekking support staff. Trekking support staff also should stop putting undue pressure on employers.

Likewise, we will also request the government to review impractical provisions in implementation of tax and VAT for tourism businesses. We also have plans to organize an international standard adventure travel mart in Nepal. We believe that we can organize such marts effectively.  

I have a very good team. We hope to tackle all the problems in trekking sector and work to develop TAAN as a respectable professional body of the trekking sector.

 

We can easily fill wide-body aircraft

Born in Nardevi, Kathmandu in 2009 BS, Sugat Ratna Kansakar is the managing director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). He studies Juddhodaya Public High School, before completing his ISc from Amrit Science College. After his ISc, he got a scholarship to study engineering in Pune. Kansakar is the former managing director of Nepal Telecom – the […]

Sugat

Sugat Ratna Kansakar

Born in Nardevi, Kathmandu in 2009 BS, Sugat Ratna Kansakar is the managing director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). He studies Juddhodaya Public High School, before completing his ISc from Amrit Science College. After his ISc, he got a scholarship to study engineering in Pune. Kansakar is the former managing director of Nepal Telecom – the state-owned telecom operator. Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress.Com talked to Kansakar on various issues related to the national flag carrier. Excerpts:

What changes have you seen in Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) after you returned to the helm of the national flag carrier?

Many see Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) as a government entity and treat it accordingly. But I see it as a business entity. My focus has been on addressing managerial weaknesses and developing NAC as an efficient business organization. After studying the reasons behind drop in NAC’s revenue and passenger footfalls, I came to a conclusion that we are lacking production capacity. If we don’t have production, you cannot do business effectively. I often tell my employees that we are no different than a grocery shop. Grocery shop sells groceries, we sell seats. If you don’t have groceries, grocery shop cannot do business. How can we do business if we don’t have seats? We have permission to fly to 38 countries. But we are flying to only five countries because we don’t have sufficient aircraft. Twenty-six airlines are doing brisk business here enjoying more than 90 percent market share. But we are forced to act as a mute spectator because we have no production; we have no seat, no aircraft. Now most of the stakeholders have realized the fact that NAC cannot function effectively without aircraft.

What are the major problems of NAC at present?

The first and foremost problem is the lack of aircraft. We have recently decided to procure to wide-body aircraft to expand our presence in international market. The second is; we need to enhance our management and develop it as a professional organization as we have to compete with multi-billion-dollar companies like Qatar Airways, Etihad, Thai Airways, Silk Air, DragonAir, Jet Airways and Air India, among others. If we are to see off their competition, we need to be strong and capable. We should not compromise on aviation safety.

You are adding wide-body aircraft at a time when many people are saying that NAC is failing to make optimum use of its existing aircraft. What do you say?

The allegation of not making optimum use of existing aircraft is baseless. We are seeing high occupancy in all sectors where we are operating. People are requesting me to arrange tickets for them. Occupancy is a bit low in new destinations like Mumbai. I would like to assure you that there is a big market and we can fill our wide-body aircraft easily.

Two Chinese aircraft are becoming a pain in the neck for the national flag carrier. Do you have any plan to bring the remaining four from China?

Chinese aircraft were never in our priority. We got the two Chinese aircraft as part of the government-to-government agreement. Though their operating cost is high compared to other aircraft and cannot carry load as per the capacity, they are not a burden for us.

The file of bringing the remaining four Chinese aircraft is under study at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). If the government thinks that the aircraft are fit for Nepal, we will operate them.

How is the relation of the national flag carrier with its line ministry?

We enjoy a cordial relationship with the tourism ministry. We should have good relationship with the tourism minister, tourism secretary and other high-ranking officials in the ministry as most of the important decision of NAC are taken by the ministry. If you don’t have good relation with them, you cannot implement your plans. It is more for us now as tourism secretary is the ex-officio chairman of NAC.

You were given jail term during your first tenure in NAC? Can you tell us the reasons behind that?

Those were unfortunate days. We had placed orders for two aircraft after briefing most of the government officials, parliamentary committee members and even the then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal about our business plan. But a day after the then Prime Minister assured me to endorse the plan from the cabinet; a case was filed against the process. I cannot reveal you the reason behind this.

Can you give some hints?

Sorry, I can’t.

Many say that the grounding handling charges at the Tribhuvan International Airport is very expensive than other airports in the region. How true is this?

We have said many times that the ground handling charges here are expensive but not much. Charges vary with airports. We have been paying high charges in other airports where we operate flights. I think the main complaints of international airlines flying here is on service quality not the price. We have improved our ground handling services in recent months. NAC is even preparing to get ISO certification for our ground handling services. We are improving our services to meet all the requirements. If we get ISO certification, we will be the first public entity in the county to receive the international quality certification.

Acquiring wide-body jets has been your No.1 priority at NAC. So when will the wide-body jets arrive?

We are working as per the timetable. NAC has received permission from the government, arranged financing and invited global tender to procure aircraft. If things go as planned, we will get delivery of first wide-body jet by September, 2017. The second will join our fleet six months later.

We will be operating flights to destinations in Japan, South Korea and Australia among others with the wide-body jets. We cannot operate flights to European destinations until a ban on Nepali airlines to fly in European Union airspace is removed lifted by the European Aviation Agency. We will operate non-stop flights to London once the ban is lifted.

Similarly, we are procuring software that facilitates passengers to buy NAC tickets from any corner of the world within a few months.

Any parting remarks?

Kathmandu is among the most expensive destinations in Asia in terms of flight cost. This is happening because international airline companies are charging exorbitant fare and we don’t have aircraft to intervene the market. Once we link Kathmandu to other cities, we expect flight prices to come down.

Our tourism industry is in need of a strong national flag carrier. If we succeed in linking Kathmandu to major tourist generating markets, flight prices will come down which will bring down cost of tour packages.

 

Domestic tourism promotion will get priority

Deepak Raj Joshi is the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). He was appointed to the post on December 17 last year through open competition. As Nepal embarks on tourism recovery after the devastating earthquakes and supply obstructions due to Indian blockade, Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress talked to Joshi to know about his plans. Excerpts:

NTB CEO

Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of NTB. Photo: RSS

Deepak Raj Joshi is the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). He was appointed to the post on December 17 last year through open competition. As Nepal embarks on tourism recovery after the devastating earthquakes and supply obstructions due to Indian blockade, Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress talked to Joshi to know about his plans. Excerpts:

Please tell us about our tourism industry.

Our tourism is around six decades old. Initially it started with exploration and mountaineering. Later we started wildlife tourism and cultural tourism. It is gradually diversified. But the pace of diversification is not so satisfactory. Tourism holds great prospects but we have been failing to exploit the potential to the fullest. (more…)

Temperature in the Himalayas is rising at a higher rate

Ang Tshering Sherpa is the president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). Sherpa, who is associated with Asian Trekking, is one of the few persons in the country with in-depth knowledge about climatic condition and topography of Nepali mountain peaks as well as other peaks in the Himalayan Range. Sherpa, who is also an honorary member […]

Ang Tshering Sherpa

Ang Tshering Sherpa

Ang Tshering Sherpa is the president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). Sherpa, who is associated with Asian Trekking, is one of the few persons in the country with in-depth knowledge about climatic condition and topography of Nepali mountain peaks as well as other peaks in the Himalayan Range. Sherpa, who is also an honorary member of International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), is affiliated with number of social organizations. Sherpa recently talked to eTravelPress on several issues related to Nepali mountaineering sector. Excerpts:

Almost all the expeditions to Mt Everest this season have been cancelled. What message will it relay in the international market?

A tragic incident occurred in Everest this year. An avalanche struck mountaineering workers at an altitude of 5,800 meters between Everest Base Camp and Camp I. Sixteen climbers were swept away. Thirteen bodies have been recovered, while three are still missing. It is one of the biggest losses of human lives in Everest.

(more…)

Our focus will be on promoting cultural trekking trails: Pandey

Sagar Pandey is the newly elected general secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) – the umbrella organization of more than 900 trekking agencies in the country. The young and promising entrepreneur runs a number of businesses including the Himalayan Glacier Treks and Expedition. Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress recently talked to Pandey on […]

Sagar Pandey

Sagar Pandey

Sagar Pandey is the newly elected general secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) – the umbrella organization of more than 900 trekking agencies in the country. The young and promising entrepreneur runs a number of businesses including the Himalayan Glacier Treks and Expedition. Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress recently talked to Pandey on various aspects of Nepali trekking industry. Excerpts: (more…)