Nalin Mandiratta is the new General Manger of the Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Kathmandu. Mandiratta has been with Intercontinental Hotel Groups (IHG) for over two years and has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry with significant expertise in hotel operation across reputed brands like Hilton, Mrriort and Carlson. Samiksha Koirala of Republica caught up with Mandiratta to learn about his plans as new general manager of the hotel and scenario of overall tourism industry.
How do you evaluate the growth in occupancy of your hotel with respect to growth in tourist arrivals in NTY 2011?
I think the overall tourism industry of Nepal has experienced positive growth from the last 2-3 years which also includes several initiatives taken by the governement during Nepal Tourism Year 2011 to promote Nepal as a tourist designation. Compared to last year, we do foresee a healthy trend of growth in terms of tourist arrivals in our hotel in this fiscal year as well.
What about the occupancy of the current season? Also mention if there is any significant change in booking in terms of market segment.
As I have mentioned above, first quarter of this year compared to same period last year has shown a considerable growth in terms of tourist arrival in the city, which has direct correlation to the occupancy trend of the hotel. We have observed an encouraging growth from Corporate, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibition) and leisure markets. Moreover, there has definitely been a shift in the market with regards to tourist arrivals in Nepal. In past few months, we have seen a healthy growth in terms of tourist arrivals from countries like India, China and South East Asia.
Would you like to share the plans of expansion or upgradation?
We have very extensive product development and upgradation plan for the next couple of years. In the progression, we have completely refurbished our 120 guest rooms in Princep wing and launched our newly renovated all day dining restaurant, Garden Terrace. Our primary focus for this year is to start the process of refurbishment of our Himalayan Wing Rooms and renovate our Chinese Speciality restaurant China Garden. We will also launch new menus for Alfresco and Kakori, our Italian and Indian restaurants respectively.
What is the immediate effect of bandas/strike and political uncertainity in the hotel industry?
We have experienced a marginal effect due to the bandas in terms of cancellation of bookings. We hope to see an affirmative trend in business with political stability in near future.
The issue of power supply and labor unrest has been often pointed out by hoteliers as hindrances in growth of tourism industry? How problematic do you think these issues are and what else do you consider as hindrance growth of hotel industry?
Yes, power supply is a big concern faced by tourism sector as it is one of the most important service requirements for our guests. Due to the increasing inflation and periodic rise in the prices of petrol and diesel, it contributes towards the high operational costs of the hotel. With regards to labour unrest, we do not face any challenges there because we have a healthy working relationship between the management and unions to further develop our product and services. We all work together as a team towards providing maximum guest satisfaction to make our hotel a Great Hotel Guests Love.
Tourism income is falling down despite the rise in tourist arrivals and length of stay. Is it because we are failing to attract high-end tourists?
In this regard, we have experienced a continuous positive trend in high-end tourist arrivals.
What will be your prime focus and strategy as a general manager for the further growth of the hotel as well as the tourism industry of the country?
My prime focus is towards improving the overall operations of Soaltee Crowne Plaza. Also, we will continue on the path of providing branded experience to our guests and the product and service development initiatives of the hotel.
Any suggestions for the government that would help the hotel industry grow further?
In my opinion, Nepal is a beautiful country and has so much to offer in terms of hospitality, heritage, and trekking, rafting, religious pilgrimage and so on. A stable political environment and continuous infrastructure growth will certainly be the key to further growth in the hospitality industry.