Shyam Sundar Lal Kakshpati is the newly-elected president of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN). Earlier, he was General Secretary of HAN. He is chairman of Riverside Resort in Kurintar and Nanglo Group. Samiksha Koirala of Republica caught up with Kakshpati and talked about his plans for HAN for next two years. Excerpts:
What will be your priority as HAN president?
My first priority will be tackling the problems of the hospitality sector. At present, our major challenges are energy crisis and labor issues. Resolving these two problems will be the main agenda. We at HAN will continue lobbying for hotel friendly Labor Act. The present Act treats all industries in a similar way. But, the case of hospitality industry is different and separate laws should be there.
Labor issues forced many hotels to close, at least for some time. What is your take?
We really have bad experience with labor issues. Labour organizations came down to physical attacks in some of the cases, which is definitely not tolerable. We are not against unions but when we are working under government regulations, we also expect workers to follow them. They have a right to protest but in hospitality industry, protests have to be different from other industries.
What are you planning for international promotion?
Promoting tourism is one of our major objectives. We have been carrying out promotional campaigns in different countries. We are working in close coordination with hoteliers from other countries. We had carried four different programs in China last year and the arrivals from China have seen a turnaround. China is one of the most promising emerging markets, which I believe has not been tapped fully. The major problem is limited air connectivity.
Star hotels are still centralized in capital. Why are not investors showing interest to invest outside Kathmandu?
We are aware that there is a huge business prospect in other tourist destinations apart from the capital. The government should develop basic infrastructure and should create investment friendly environment. There are certain things, which the government can do to encourage investment that include providing land on lease, providing loan on low rates, and so on.
Despite the problems, number of hotels are growing. How are hoteliers doing in terms of revenue?
The statistics of 2008 shows that number of hotels and lodges was 1,000 which I believe has increased by three-fold. The investment has also gone much higher than Rs 150 billion. The growth is there and it is because of increasing number of tourist arrivals. But, the arrivals are not encouraging through out the year because of which hoteliers are not being able to witness good business except for a few months. Separate laws for the hotel industry as I mentioned earlier could actually encourage hoteliers to invest. The government has not provided us any incentive recognizing our contribution to the country´s economy.
Don´t you think the unhealthy competition among hoteliers is also hitting the revenue?
There was a time when star hotels had reduced the tariff below the normal market rate but the situation is different as the occupancy rate has gone up. Our tariff is already low compared to neighboring countries. We are working to fix the minimum tariff as per the category, which will reduce unhealthy competition even further.