MS Group has spread its wings since its inception as a trading house catering to commodity trading in the private sector. It has now ventured into manufacturing and the service sector. The group has been successful in operating an international hotel brand, Marriott and Fairfield by Marriott and plans to further expand in the country to serve a wide range of customers. Republica'sMuna Sunuwar caught up with Sumit Kumar Agarwal,vice chairman of MS Group to talk about the prospects in the hospitality industry, its current situation, expansion plans along with campaigns to promote Visit Nepal Year 2020, among others. Excerpts:
What business prospects do you see in the hospitality sector in Nepal?
Hospitality sector is a field worth exploring in Nepal. Lack of new hotels and facilities might be the reason why the number of tourists is not increasing drastically. Seeing a flourishing future in the hospitality sector, we are bringing different types of Marriott brands in the country. We have secured an average of 60% occupancy rate at this time of the year which is a plus point of being a brand hotel. Marriott has its own management which makes it easier for us.
Nepal now has many star hotels, international brands included, how is the competition amongst chain hotels in Nepal?
Competition amongst chain hotels does not particularly exist in Nepal as they have their own cliché customers. Most guests that arrive at the hotel have their mind made up before visiting a particular place. They usually go after their preferences before booking the hotel while planning their visit to the respective country.
How do you see the future of quality tourism in Nepal? What can be done to boost the inflow of such tourists?
Nepal is such beautiful country that if infrastructures are built and tourists are provided with facilities in airports and hotels, there is no denying that the number will go up. Unfortunately, we have not been able to create that environment. With less number of tourist and on top of that their stay is not that long either which averages for less expenditure.
Longer the stay, their expenditure increases. For which, we need to present them with options for making them stay in Nepal for a longer period of time. If we can make quality tourists stay in Nepal for a longer period, the average spending can be increased as well. Nepal has lots of scope and the private sector is trying to get hold of them. Similarly, if the government plays its part, it is not hard to increase the number of quality tourists.
Does Marriott have Visit Nepal 2020 focused plan for tourists? Is the promotion done by the government enough to bring more tourists into the country?
Marriott operates weekly and monthly packages. We have been preparing for different celebrations from time to time, for example we now have Chinese New Year themed promotions.
Only hotel package is not enough for tourists, there needs to be a combo package inclusive of airfare, transportation, travel and accommodation.
I personally think that the promotion, publicity and marketing for VN2020 campaign should have started couple of years back. As anyone, while traveling to a place has his/her own planning about the stay there. Same thing applies to the individuals traveling to Nepal. They take their time to plan their trip and definitely think before making the expenses. Europeans and Chinese usually have a budget in which they want to travel but the government of Nepal has failed to make a plan on how to contextualize their expenses and bring them here.
Tourists who come to India also visit Bangkok but the flight fare of Nepal is also comparatively high that barely fits their expenditure plan. Traveling to Nepal sometimes goes beyond their expenses which eventually impacts the arrival number.
Has the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China, our neighboring country which is also the second-largest tourism market of Nepal impacted the hotel industry?
There were a huge number of Chinese guests in Nepal just before Chinese New Year. However, it has dramatically dropped. Not only has it impacted in Chinese guests' arrival, it has also impacted Indian and European guests' perception of wanting to visit Nepal. Coronavirus' impact became visible very quickly resulting into cancellation of pre-bookings. This time, guests are hesitating to visit the country. Huge groups having links to Marriott have postponed their visit to Nepal.
What are your expansion plans for the group?
We are launching Moxy Hotel by Marriott with an investment of Rs 1.5 billion in Nepal. The hotel will be located at Kamaladi where the construction is going to take place in a full-fledged manner after two weeks. We have targeted the official launching within 2.5 years after the construction starts. As a group that is involved in multi-sector, we are also studying to explore into other industries as well.