With many feathers in his cap, Raju Shrestha, General Manager of Hotel Akama shares his experiences with Nepal Traveller
Bright and enthusiastic, Raju Shrestha is the General Manager of Akama Hotel, a brand new property that values excellent services, experience and luxury. Shrestha further sheds some light on his easy transition from international chain hotels to Nepal.
1. A brief on the upcoming four-star property, Hotel Akama.
Hotel Akama is a modern, upscale destination in Kathmandu, Nepal that provides the highest level of comfort and services. We acknowledge small gestures that make a big impact on our guests. The Sanima Group, with the motto of ‘Developing Nepal as a Tourist Destination in the World’, has promoted Akama Hotel as a fusion of local Newari and Himalayan cultures. We do ordinary things in an extraordinary way – a philosophy that has defined our brand's success from the beginning.
Hotel Akama has 108 keys (Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Deluxe Suites, Family Suites and Presidential Suite) with a Coffee Shop, which is open for breakfast, lunch, light snacks during the day and exquisite dinners. We serve Nepali, Indian, Continental, Chinese cuisine. We have Lobby Lounge for small meetings with freshly brewed coffee, tea and finger foods. The Speciality Restaurant on the ninth floor with a view of the valley serving Italian and Chinese cuisine on a la carte. We have multiple meeting halls - Sanima (which can be divided into two halls), Mai, Tamor and Sunkoshi which is perfect for social events, meetings and such. The hotel features a fully equipped gymnasium with state of the art equipment from CYBEX, sauna, Jacuzzi, steam and infinity pool and a bar.
2. What would you say is the hotel’s greatest asset?
I would say the greatest asset or USP of the hotel are its people, product and services, which we are committed to extending consistently to our valuable customers. Our hotel is unique with a homely and cosy vibe, aimed to ensure customer satisfaction from check in to check out. We have a very professional team who understand the core values of consistency and impeccable service.
3. A brief intro on your past experiences.
I have been in the Hospitality business for over three decades and worked in Nepal, India and Thailand. I had started my career with Oberoi Group Hotels in the ’80s and worked predominantly with InterContinental Group of Hotels. For last one decade, I worked in India in Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza Brand hotels in Gurgaon, Ooty, Kochi, New Delhi and Pune.
4. Stepping in as the General Manager for a new hotel, what was your initial apprehension and how did you get over it?
Frankly speaking, it was smooth sailing for me because I had taken over the responsibility of a General Manager, successfully operating new hotels in the past in Gurgaon, Kochi and Phuket. Currently, in Nepal, working with locals and being one myself has made it even simpler.
5. Pros and cons of being the General Manager.
Being the General Manager, I would say has only ‘pros’. The most important element is to love our job, only then we’ll have positive insights. A team should share the same values and vision, working as a valuable team player brings goals to fruition.
6. Elaborate on the current challenges faced.
After working abroad and coming back to Nepal, I realised that we still have a long way to go. I would like to elaborate few points, which I am sure is going to be relevant to the overall hospitality industry.
- Even though we call ourselves professionals, our day-to-day conduct does not demonstrate so.
- The quality of work – I am referring to Projects and the delivery of quality work. After being associated with international chains abroad I feel Nepal needs to bring in automation especially in ‘Hotel Project’ completion. We are still dependent on manual labour, which obviously is time-consuming.
- With the escalation of competent manpower moving abroad, currently, even the hospitality sector is suffering. I would say it is impossible to get qualified manpower because of which we spend a good amount of time in developing the desired level of manpower.
7. Among numerous properties coming up in Kathmandu, how do you intend to tackle competition?
The word ‘Competition’ is engraved in all of us from day one, whether we like it or not in our personal and professional life. But the question is, how do we overcome the same? In order to rise above, we need to prepare ourselves/team and start working well in advance by developing specific strategies, implementing them rigorously and religiously, monitoring it on a regular basis to correct the course if required and most importantly believe in yourself and your TEAM.
8. How do you handle things when it goes south?
Have patience, do not take hasty decisions. Understand the impact it would make and analyse the issues with your team to find out the root cause. Discuss possible solutions and make decisions, implement and review results.
9. Some attributes you consider to be your strength in this line of work.
I would rather have people observe and tell me my strengths. But if I have to analyse it would be:
- A great team player
- Excellent interpersonal relationship with stockholders, key associations and business partners
- Operational Masters with above three decades of experience
- A wide range of exposure
- Effective and efficient trainer
- High Performer with great results delivered.
10. As Visit Nepal 2020 approaches what are the goals you have in mind and how do you see them come in fruition?
Since Visit Nepal 2020 is approaching, the goal is to create a demand for Nepal, as a top destination for travel, among enthusiasts all over. It is the responsibility of all Nepalis involved in the hospitality industry to make Visit Nepal 2020 a grand success through various marketing tools available.
Akama's goal is to coordinate and work closely with government bodies and other travel agents directly or indirectly to promote Nepal. I personally feel that since we are a small country between two giants, we could attract millions visiting our neighbours as well. Travel-friendly and great hospitality should do the trick.