“We are promoting Nepal as a destination which is more than just mountains”

  •   2017-10-10      

ABDULLAH TUNCER KECECI, the general manager of Turkish Airlines for Nepal, has been in Nepal for nearly two years. He spoke to nepaltraveller.com about the challenges in Nepal’s aviation and tourism and how Nepal can move forward as a tourist destination.

1. How was the tourism trade fair you just attended in Paris? How do these fairs help promote tourism? Should we participate more in these trade fairs?

The trade fair was good. These kinds of trade fairs give everyone a good opportunity to meet tour operators and tourism stakeholders to promote their product and also for networking purpose it is good. It gives everyone a chance to meet people from the same field and helps us to have business to business relations, which is why I feel these trade fairs are quite good.

Yes all of us here in Nepal should participate more in these trade fairs. But we should change the way we do the marketing. Nepal is a very colorful country and I don’t think that colouful side has been presented as it should be. In these trade fairs tour operators from all across the world are present which gives us a great platform to market Nepal as a tourist destination.

 

2. Turkish Airlines just celebrated its 4th anniversary in Nepal, how has the journey been so far?

The journey has had its ups and downs but I feel Nepal has been really good to us. We started flights to Nepal from 2013 and have been going strong ever since. We have always promoted Nepal as a tourist destination which is why we started with 4 flights a week initially which went as high as 7 flights a week. But then the earthquake and the blockade had its toll on us too but little by little we’re getting back.

When you’re promoting someplace as a tourist destination, if the conditions aren’t favourable, it affects you directly. There were some airlines that considered not flying to Nepal indefinitely which is why I feel we were the less affected ones. Coming from a country that has been affected by earthquakes, we understood the need to support Nepal which is why Turkish airlines continued its operations. Even now we are trying to be part of the new Nepal as we increase our flight frequency to 5 flights a week hoping to fly daily in the near future.  

 

3. Which parts of Nepal do you like the most?

Pokhara is a really nice place where you can do a lot of things. I think Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one best place around Kathmandu. Of course, it was damaged by the earthquake but as it is renovated I think that place will get its charm back.

Namo Buddha is one of my favourite places as it is very spiritual and peaceful. But as we know it’s not easy to reach the place because the roads are not very nice and it’s the same with Bouddhanath. The place is so nice that at times you feel you’re in a different place. A place like Thamel is nice too and but could be better if the government made it a vehicle free zone.

 

4. According to you, what are Nepal's strengths and weaknesses?

Nepal is a great destination but can’t get enough from the tourism market. Nepal has a lot of potential but there are some barriers along the way. The tourism board and the people associated with tourism should understand that Nepal’s strongest point is the mountains, but its weakest point is also the mountains. Because not many people come here to visit the mountains, we need to promote other aspects of Nepal as well. This is why we are promoting Nepal as destination which is more than just mountains. If you don’t promote in that way you won’t be able to reach a larger audience.

Talking about weaknesses we all know the infrastructure needs to improve. If we can’t reach Chitwan which is only a 170 km in 3-4 hours there is no tourism here as not all tourist want to fly with the domestic airlines. Right now it takes a minimum of 8 hours to get there which does not help tourism here in Nepal. What we need to understand is we should not be looking at getting a bigger slice from an existing cake, but we should be thinking of making the cake bigger so everyone around gets a bigger share.

 

5. What plans do you have in terms of the growing Nepal outbound market?

We have over 300 destinations for them to fly to. We meet with tour operators regularly to make plans to make outbound tourism better. But visa issues always create a problem. As visas are last minute, tour operators cannot plan the tours earlier. This is the reason packages here cost high as they do. We are encouraging them to plan earlier and take some risk so they can sell packages at a reasonable price.

If travellers plan the tour themselves, they should also book flights and hotels early as you definitely get a better deal for yourself.

We also understand that the market is growing which is why rather that everyone doing everything they should be focusing on specific areas. For example one agent focuses on France where as the other on Italy or another country. We support agents with good rates on groups and also reasonable airfares.

 

6. What do you think about the aviation situation here in Nepal? What can be done to make it better?

When we talk about the aviation sector you have to talk about the airport. There in only one international airport which doesn’t have enough capability, service, runway or parking bays for enough planes. All these play a big role in bringing in the desired tourists because you need to understand that these things are important. An airport needs to have basic facilities for the tourists to use. It’s good that there are new airports being constructed but it will take time. Till then I think the conditions of TIA should be better.