'Focus will be on tourists from Middle-East region'
Ravi Kapila is the newly appointed General Manager of The Everest - Kathmandu based five star hotel. Experienced in the hospitality industry for around three decades and well versed in the operations of international chains in several countries of Middle-East and Asia, Kapila is optimistic about the tourism industry of Nepal. Samiksha Koirala of Republica caught up with Kapila to talk about his plans at the Everest hotel and overall tourism industry of the country. Excerpts:
Based on your short experience at the Everest, how do you rate the Nepali hotels in terms of service and amenities compared to hotels abroad?
I am still gathering information to make specific comment in this regard as it has just been a few weeks since I joined the office. But what is for sure is there exists ample scope for improvment as hotels in Nepal lack many new facilities and are still unfamiliar with many new trends of the hospitality industry. Nevertheless, the best thing about the hotels in Asia, particularly in India and Nepal is we can provide personal touch to the guests, which I have not found in the hotels abroad. In this region, we have been offering a lot of warmth to the guests, something that makes them feel at home. And I am very happy with my team as well, as everyone have the learning attitude.
The Everest hotel had announced plan of expanding more rooms few months ago. When will this expansion begin?
We are positive about the expansion plan, but I can´t give you te exact date. We are currently busy focusing on renovation of the existing rooms. We have enough space for the additional rooms and the occupancy rate is good. But, at present I want to make best of the existing rooms, banquets and restaurants rather than going for a new project.
Would you like to share your specific plans and targets?
My plan for now is to focus on the renovation. It will continue for sometime. With huge number of Chinese tourists coming in, we are working on the plans to make their stay at the hotel more convenient. We have one of the best Chinese restaurants at the hotel and we are training our staff for more authentic Chinese taste. As a general manager, my focus will not be simply on increasing room sales. I also want to focus on local sales. We are targeting wedding banquets and restaurant sales too. We are organizing Master Chef Competition which will be an event for corporate people, family person and others. Besides, we will be also holding special event for the Christmas and New Year.
The rates of the restaurants of the star hotels are higher compared to famous restaurants of the capital. In this situation, how do you plan to attract more guests?
I completely agree with this. There are good restaurants offering good food and great ambience. Attracting more guests is a challenging task for us because our operating cost is higher and we can´t offer cheaper rates as they do. Likewise, strict enforcement of rule against drink and drive has pulled down the bar sales. So, we are thinking of providing pick up and drop to our guests. We are also planning to add new activities like live music, new themes and other to attract local guests.
Hoteliers here pinpoint power cuts and labor unrest as major hindrances facing tourism industry? As a hotelier, what else do you consider as other challenges?
We are spending thousands of rupees on fuel to ensure power back up, which definitely is not a good situation. We hope this problem will be solved soon. On the issue of labor, I have a different opinion. I know most of the workers are affiliated to some union here in Nepal, but their activities depend on how we treat them. Just because someone is affiliated to a trade union does not make him or her bad person. Apart from that, I feel our road infrastructure has deteriorated compared to the past. Tourists are never happy to see bumpy road with no street lights. These might sound like minor issues, but for tourists it ruins their whole experience.
Do you plan to focus on particular segment of tourists?
It is always healthy to focus on all segments of clients. I am happy The Everest has customers from different nationalities. The number of Chinese tourists is growing up and arrivals from India and other South Asian countries too is promising. But we have not being able to attract people from Middle East region, despite the good air connectivity. Having worked in that region, I know people there are very willing to travel and spend a good amount too. They can also be potential investors for Nepal. So, I am planning to focus on Middle East region. I also feel arrivals from South East Asia can increase if we put in some efforts.