Yogesh Bhattarai appointed tourism minister

The government has appointed Yogesh Bhattarai as the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The government has appointed Yogesh Bhattarai as the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Bhattarai is a standing committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and a lawmaker representing Taplejung district in eastern Nepal.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari administered the oath of office and secrecy to Bhattarai amid a function organized at the President’s Office at Shital Niwas on Wednesday afternoon.

With Bhattarai’s appointment, tourism ministry has finally got a new leader six months after the tragic death of the then minister Rabindra Adhikari in a chopper crash in Taplejung district.

Yogesh Bhattarai is regarded one of the most influential youth leaders in the ruling Nepal Communist Party. He has not taken any ministerial post or any other political appointments so far. So, there are many who feel that this stint as tourism minister will be his real test.

The new job, however, will not be a cakewalk for this promising young leader. Ailing Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), which has been failing to make proper use of the four newly-procured Airbus series aircraft, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) expansion works, and the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign will be his foremost challenges. Likewise, arranging new flight routes for the under-construction Gautam Buddha International Airport in Lumbini and Pokhara Regional International Airport, as well as environmental issues surrounding the proposed second international airport in Nijgadh of Bara will be other challenges for the new minister.

The new job, however, will not be a cakewalk for this promising young leader. Ailing Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), which has been failing to make proper use of the four newly-procured Airbus series aircraft, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) expansion works, and the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign will be his foremost challenges. Likewise, arranging new flight routes for the under-construction Gautam Buddha International Airport in Lumbini and Pokhara Regional International Airport, as well as environmental issues surrounding the proposed second international airport in Nijgadh of Bara will be other challenges for the new minister.

Also looking after culture portfolio, he will have to ensure that reconstruction of historical monuments is completed on time. Likewise, he will also have to focus on conservation of UNESCO World Heritage sites as UNESCO has already threatened to delist them if needful conservation measures are not take on time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thamel warms up for TAAN election

Thamel — the tourist hotspot in Kathmandu — is getting warmer with every passing day after Nepal’s largest tourism association — Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) — announced dates for election for its new executive committee.

Thamel — the tourist hotspot in Kathmandu — is getting warmer with every passing day after Nepal’s largest tourism association — Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) — announced dates for election for its new executive committee.

TAAN, which boasts of nearly 1,400 members, is holding an election for the new executive committee in Kathmandu on September 6. The new executive committee will have a tenure of two years.

Holding election is a normal democratic practice. But, in tourism industry in general and TAAN in particular, the election is much more than that. It’s a nearly Rs 50 million show-offs, with TAAN Secretariat spending nearly Rs 2.5 million to hold the election and contesting panels spending nearly Rs 2-2.5 million on series of dinners and cocktail parties to woo voters. Many candidates pay a membership renewal fee of the companies to secure their votes.

A snap survey of past elections of TAAN conducted by eTravelPress shows, the panels contesting in the election are affiliated to or close to two major political parties of the country — CPN-UML (which has now become Nepal Communist Party after the merger with UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress). As Nepal Communist Party is much stronger compared to Nepali Congress after the merger with UCPN (Maoist), the panel supported by Nepal Communist Party might have upper hand in the elections this year.

Holding election is a normal democratic practice. But, in tourism industry in general and TAAN in particular, election is much more than that. It’s a nearly Rs 5 million show-off, with TAAN Secretariat spending nearly Rs 2.5 million to hold the election and contesting panels spending nearly Rs 2-2.5 million on series of dinners and cocktail parties to woo voters.

But observers say it won’t be a cakewalk for the Communist panel, as tourism organizations of the then CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) have yet to unify even though the parties have merged. Also, the then CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) had different factions which makes things further difficult for the pro-Communist panel. So, it will be difficult to have a common candidate. In such a scenario, floor-crossing cannot be ruled out. Floor-crossing was seen during the election of Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The panel close to Nepali Congress, however, will not have such a dilemma. However, there are too many aspirants.

ASPIRANTS
Tourism organization affiliated to Nepal Communist Party is likely to field one among Sagar Pandey, Rajendra Sapkota, Kumar Thapa, Tej Bahadur Gurung, Hari Dharel, and Ganesh Simkhada as the presidential candidate for TAAN election. Of them, Simkhada has already said that he would contest the election. Similarly, there are many presidential hopefuls in the tourism organization close to Nepali Congress. Some of them are Khum Bahadur Subedi, Lilabaldab Dahal ‘Kaka’, Nilhari Bastola and Mohan Lamsal.

WHO SELECTS CANDIDATES?
Nepal National Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, which is close to the ruling Nepal Communist Party, selects candidates for the pro-communist panel. Nepal Communist Party Central Committee Member Surya Thapa, who heads the tourism wing of the party, will have a major say in the selection of candidates.
Similarly, National Entrepreneurs Association for Tourism-Nepal (NEAT Nepal) selects the candidates for the pro-Congress panel. NEAT Nepal Founding President Deepak Mahat will have the major say in the selection of candidates as the party has not named head of its tourism wing.

Number of five-star hotels rises to 15

The number of five-star hotels in the country has risen to 15 after Aloft Kathmandu Thamel got approval from the Department of Tourism on Monday.


The number of five-star hotels in the country has risen to 15 after Aloft Kathmandu Thamel got approval from the Department of Tourism on Monday, according to Annapurna Post daily.

Aloft Kathmandu Hotel will be managed by Aloft Hotels — a US-based hotel chain owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Aloft Kathmandu is the newest five-star property in Kathmandu. Aloft has 177 rooms. It has already signed a contract with Macau-based gaming company to run a casino on its premises. Aloft is one of the attractions in Chhaya Center Kathmandu which is being marketed as a Thamel inside Thamel. Aloft Hotel has been opened with an investment of Rs 5.5 million, according to the promoters.

Investment in hotels in Nepal has seen a surge after the 2015 earthquakes. Many international hotel chains entered Nepal expecting healthy growth in tourists arrivals post-earthquake.
Couple of months ago, Marriott Kathmandu Hotel started operations in Kathmandu. Marriott also manages a four-star property, Fairfield by Marriott, in Kathmandu.

Similarly, two more five-star hotels — Kathmandu Sheraton Hotel and Double Tree by Hilton — are under construction. Outside Kathmandu Valley, Hotel Garima of Itahari and Hotel Mechi Crown, which are under construction, also plan to apply for five-star certification.

Applications of Hotel Pawan Palace of Lumbini and Hotel Grande Prince of Jhapa for five-star rating are under study at the Department of Tourism, according to officials.

Likewise, Hotel Crown Plaza of Kohalpur and Soaltee Westend Premier of Nepalgunj have also received five-star certification from the Department of Tourism.

Himalaya Travel Mart concludes successfully

The three-day 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM 2019) concluded successfully in Kathmandu on Sunday.

The three-day 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM 2019) concluded successfully in Kathmandu on Sunday.

Billed as the biggest travel trade marketplace for the Himalayas, HTM 2019 drew more than 700 delegates, including more than 150 foreigners, from 43 different countries. The four-day event was organized by PATA Nepal Chapter in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal Tourism Board, PATA Headquarters, Nepal Airlines and the other prominent tourism organizations of Nepal.

Inaugurating the mart, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli emphasized on Nepal’s immense tourism potentialities with diversified tangible and intangible products and services including cultural heritage, art and architecture, pilgrimage, Yoga, Ayurveda and meditation, among others. He also said pristine nature, unique climate and the most hospitable people make Nepal one of the happening destinations in the world.

In the inauguration ceremony, Oli posthumously awarded former tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari in recognition of his dedication and relentless efforts in uplifting the development of tourism in Nepal. Similarly, he also felicitated British mountaineering Doug Scott in recognition of his lifetime efforts and contribution in the field of mountaineering and tourism in Nepal.

One of the main attractions of HTM 2019 was the HTM Conference under the theme of “Spirit of the Himalayas”. The conference witnessed more than 20 prominent speakers, spiritual leaders, mystics, religious gurus, influencers and tourism experts who dwelt on various issues including spiritual tourism,  adventure travel trends, responsible and sustainable tourism, digital transformation and new trends in tourism, travel media trends, contemporary issues, challenges and opportunities for the development of tourism for Nepal as well as the Himalayan nations.

Likewise, International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference saw participation of more than 40 international travel bloggers and media as well as hundreds of local media delegates. Various speakers emphasized on the role of travel media and bloggers for tourism promotion of a destination.

The organizers had arranged pre-mart routes for all hosted buyers and media to acquaint them with Nepal’s tourism products and services.

The mart was fruitful in terms of business as well. The two-day B2B session witnessed  58 buyers from 30 different countries from the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Asia and the Gulf Region, as well as sellers from six countries — Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China and Thailand.

The next edition of the HTM will be held on June 12-15, 2020 in Kathmandu.

HTM 2019 will support Visit Nepal Year campaign

Sunil Sakya is the president of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal Chapter. Shakya, who joined the tourism industry from hotel business, is now the chairman of KGH Hotels Pvt Ltd. KGH Hotels have properties in Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, Lumbini and Chitwan, among others. As Nepal prepares to host 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM) in […]

Sunil Sakya is the president of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal Chapter. Shakya, who joined the tourism industry from hotel business, is now the chairman of KGH Hotels Pvt Ltd. KGH Hotels have properties in Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, Lumbini and Chitwan, among others. As Nepal prepares to host 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM) in Kathmandu, Kishor Basnyat of eTravelPress talked to Sakya to know more about the mart and its objectives. Excerpts:

How has been the preparation for HTM 2019?
The preparation is well underway. We have used our best of the knowledge and skills to make this mart successful. We have buyers and sellers from 30 countries participating. They have been screened by NTB and our PATA Travel Mart. Most of the buyers and media persons and bloggers are already in Nepal. They are currently participating in pre-mart fam trips. Some are doing trekking, others are visiting Pokhara, Chitwan or Lumbini. We have trained 60 plus volunteers to make sure that the mart progresses in a seamless manner. All the volunteers are in place now: at the airport, at the hotels. We are promoting the mart as the gateway to the Himalayas. In line with our theme, we are seeing participation of delegates, speakers and buyers/sellers reflect from the Himalayan countries.

This is the third edition of HTM. How has the event grown over the past years?
We have grown in terms of popularity, quality and event size. This event is well-known now. There is huge demand from buyers and sellers. We closed registration about a week ago, but we are still getting request from seller companies. Because of small venue at Soaltee Crowne Plaza, we had to turn down many sellers this year. Many are in the waiting list. We could have accommodated more sellers if we had bigger venue.

How has been the response?
The response from the international travel trade has been immense and exciting. We had lot of queries from buyers. There is also a huge interest from media, travel bloggers and influencers. We have selected them after rigorous screening. I am hopeful that they will cover the event in their respective media and social media platforms which will in turn promote HTM. Also, the quality in terms of buyers, sellers, media, bloggers and speakers is getting better.

We are promoting the mart as the gateway to the Himalayas. In line with our theme, we are seeing participation of delegates, speakers and buyers/sellers reflect from the Himalayan countries.

Nepal is celebrating Visit Nepal Year 2020. How do you think the mart will support the yearlong campaign?
As a lot of international media and bloggers are here, HTM could be a launching pad for VNY. Further, officials of PATA Headquarters are here. As PATA is a global organization, I think many international delegates will be acquainted with the mart. Through HTM, many countries across the world will be able to know about our Visit Nepal Year 2019 campaign.

Could you please elaborate the theme of HTM 2019?
The theme of HTM 2019 is ‘Spirit of Himalayas’. Tourism is ever changing and new types of products are being introduced and tried across the world. We cannot remain in isolation. We have a big challenge of welcoming two million visitors by 2020. For that, we need new tourism products and services. We are using this mart to cash in on the new trend of tourism — spirituality. We will be talking about yoga, spa and wellness, mind, body and soul, and other things. We will be discussing on these new trends in the conference that we are hosting as a major component of HTM 2019.