KATHMANDU, July 17: It will take a long time to calculate the time and budget spent on the development of infrastructure and businesses’ capacity to promote tourism in the district of Ilam. Even after so much ‘investment’, it is ironic that the tourists who come here often complain about not having received the basic tourist facilities.
Tourists report the experience of not getting hospitality from the staff in the vehicles while boarding them and from the hotel staff while eating and staying at the hotels. There are frequent complaints of disrespectful treatment to tourists even in some big hotels in the tourist area.
A few months ago, a guest from Biratnagar who was staying in a big hotel in Kanyam was ‘shocked’ by the behavior of the hotel staff when he was having tea in the morning. While he was sitting drinking his tea, the hotel maid made him get up from his seat to broom the floor. “We couldn’t stay there when the dust started blowing after the maid started brooming as we were drinking tea,” said the young man. “Ilam has charming views but the behavior of the people at the hotel needs to be improved.”
An event was organized in the same hotel about six months ago. The program which was organized at 1 PM was over in an hour. According to the organizers, lunch and tea were ‘ordered’ in the morning based on the number of participants in the program. More than half of the participants got up and left without eating after getting the news that lunch and tea would be provided one hour after the end of the program. About one-third of the participants were angry with the hotel management but stayed for lunch and tea.
A week ago, a tourist from a western district of the county came to a hotel in Ilam. The tourist who arrived at the hotel at around 2 AM did not get a bed in the hotel rooms as per the booking he had made earlier in the afternoon. “When I complained about it that time, the hotel staff told me to sleep in whatever was there. They responded, “how can we find the things that you are looking for at this moment?” the tourist replied.
While visiting Ilam from Sunsari, Sunil Yadav, a tourist who took a jeep from Birtamod to Ilam, tried to get information from the driver about the tourist spots of Ilam, but the driver did not wish to tell him. “Why are you asking about the tourist spots to a driver like me?” He narrated the response he got from the driver.
“The person who drives in Ilam has no general knowledge about Ilam. Even when I mentioned that I was a new person who had come to visit Ilam, he frustratingly replied to me that he did not know about Ilam,” complained Sunil. Sunil also narrated that the driver charged more than the specified fare and responded that “if you wish to get off then do but the fare is the same”.
Ilam is a beautiful place. While first-time tourists enjoy the beauty of this place, even those who come again and again still become mesmerized by the beauty of Ilam. However, the tourists are not getting the treatment and hospitality they expected from the transport, hotel and other service providers of the place.
Devika Pahari, the founding advisor of the Women Tourism Professionals Forum and a tourism professional in Pokhara who had come to facilitate training for women professionals in tourism of Province 1, said that as soon as Ilam is mentioned, Pokhara residents also appreciate its beauty. “However, despite this, it is necessary to develop infrastructure in some places in Ilam.”
She mentioned that rather than whether the hotel is equipped with facilities, tourists instead look at the way of service and the way they are treated. “When comparing Pokhara and Ilam, Pokhara looks more into how tourists can be made happy,” she said. She added, “I, myself, have been subjected to the viewpoint that tourists should be happy in Ilam in whatever is provided here. It is necessary to improve this.”
She believes that while the services provided by the hotels tend to be more or less the same, the way of delivering the service was what made the difference and hence whether tourists are satisfied depended on the behavior of the service providers.
Jamunavarsha Sharma, who came from Pokhara, said that although Ilam is a naturally gifted place, she saw a lack of tourist-friendly behavior. She added, “If the residents of Ilam treat the tourists who come here in such a way that they stay here for a long time, come back and encourage others to visit Ilam as well, it would be a solution for long-term promotion for the tourism in the district.” In the process of facilitating the training given to women professionals in tourism, she said, “Any personnel of transportation and hotels that come into contact with tourists should be very careful in their behavior.”
Not only the district's hotels and transportation business associations but also government and non-government agencies have also given training to the service providers on how to behave towards tourists. The leaders in the sector accept that only a few of those who have received the training have put the learned skills and knowledge into practice.
President of Hotel Association Ilam, Devi Paudel said that although the association and the businesses in the tourism sector were careful about tourist-friendly behavior, improvements as per what they had expected were not occurring. “Problems can arise sometimes when hotels do not know the level of quality, needs and wants that are sought by the tourists,” he said.
Paudel said that the association and various organizations are conducting training, seminars, and other programs on hospitality to tourists. The professional says that even though the local government has adopted a policy to develop the tourism sector, it has not been able to work as expected due to a lack of budget and program. “To promote tourism, it is necessary that the government assists hoteliers and aids in developing the workers’ capacity.”
The number of trained hotel workers in 120 hotels in the district is around 60. According to the association, although there are around 420 hotels in the district, the number of trained hotel workers is low.
The transport sector has also made businessmen and workers aware of hospitality and behavior towards tourists. However, Suman Kafle, office secretary of Purbeli Jeep Tatha Taxi Yatayat Sewa reports that there have been complaints about the workers’ behavior working in vehicles from time to time.