Sinead O' Reilly-Henell is the General Manager of Hyatt Regency Kathmandu which recently bagged the 'World Travel Awards 2016' as a leading hotel in Nepal. As Nepal's hospitality and tourism industry recovers from the 2015 earthquakes and subsequent political unrest, Sagar Ghimire of Republica talked with the seasoned hotelier about her experience of working in Nepal, the pace of recovery of hotel and the industry after the 2015 earthquakes, and the hotel's preparation in the competitive environment, among others. Excerpts:
It has been more than two years since you joined Hyatt Regency Kathmandu. How has been the experience of working in Nepal?
It is a great country to be in. Obviously, we have got challenges in the country as a whole due to the earthquakes and political unrest. But, that is something that we can leave behind us and move forward. Nepal is an amazing and unique destination. And there is something that many tourists would love to come and explore what this country has. That is something positive for us. We need to work on how to get that out to the people. Nepal was recently mentioned in the list of Top 5 Destinations by Lonely Planet. I think that would benefit the country in the future. The untoward incidents over the past couple of years have affected tourist footfalls as well as businesses all over the country. However, we have been able to improve on our 2015 figures. But as an industry, we all still need to work together, involving all stakeholders so as to develop short, medium and long term plans pertaining to infrastructure. We need to proactively promote the seasonal products Nepal as a country has and develop ancillary services to support them.
How is the pace of recovery after the earthquakes and the political unrest?
It's slow. But as I said already, we are seeing the growth slowly coming back across the country. I believe that it would take at least one more year to come back at a full-fledged scale. We are not seeing the tour series, which used to be in abundance in the previous years, from Spain, the UK and Germany. We don't even see the Indian figures back on track yet. So, there is still hesitancy out there. But, we believe it would be more positive in a few months or in the next year. By 2018, we see ourselves back on track.
The hotel recently bagged 'World Travel Awards'. Can you please tell more about this award?
We received the award 'World Travel Awards 2016' as a leading hotel of Nepal. We have to attribute this to continued dedication of our associates, level of affection extended by our guests and partners from all over the Nepal and outside. People voted for this award. All of the guests, clients and associates chose us as the most preferred hotel out of all other hotels in Nepal, and we are very pleased for that.
New international hotel chains are entering Nepal. How prepared you are for the competition?
Firstly, we see the new hotels coming on board in Nepal as a positive development. They will definitely more value to the country and help in showing what a great place it is to visit. From our side, we have got an amazing product here. We are sitting on 37 acres of beautiful landscape property. I do not see any of the hotels coming on board having the amount of land that we have. We can sell our product for weddings and large conference groups because they can have different events in different parts of the property. We look forward to executing our refurbishment plan for the hotel from mid-2017. That means, we are still, and intend to remain, the most preferred hotel in Kathmandu.
How is the brand Hyatt promoting tourism in Nepal?
Our sales offices are in India and all over the world are promoting Nepal for us. Hyatt is a global name and has very strong standing. The brand does a lot of public relation exercises here for us in Nepal.
What do you think the government and Nepal Tourism Board should do to bring more tourists to the country?
It has been said that the government and various agencies are carrying out many campaigns to try and increase the number of tourists in Nepal. As a suggestion, they need to start marketing Nepal more strongly as a destination itself and not only the Mount Everest. Obviously there agencies have budget and they need to be allowed to spend it. While we see lot of talks and programs being spoken about, it is not being followed by actions. With the new people in charge of Nepal Tourism Board, we do look forward to seeing more action resulting to increase in inflow of tourists.