During Nepal Traveller’s recent visit to Pokhara, we got an opportunity to meet Laxman Subedi, who has been in the hospitality sector for more than 30 years. At present, he is the president of Pokhara’s Hotel Association Nepal and is also associated with Hotel Sakura Pokhara.
Excerpt from the interview:
How would you encapsulate HAN Pokhara in one sentence?
In a sentence, HAN Pokhara is the communal parent association for Pokhara's hotels and hospitality industries.
What is HAN Pokhara’s major attempt to boost domestic tourism in Pokhara?
About 18 years ago, Han Pokhara initiated a campaign named "Jau hai Pokhara" (Let's go Pokhara) from Mechi to Mahakal, with the mission of promoting tourism in Pokhara.
The aim was to promote domestic tourism and emphasise domestic travellers' role in sustaining the hospitality industry in Pokhara.
HAN Pokhara even prolonged the promotion campaign throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by adhering to the required health guidelines. As a result, the campaign boosted tourism as soon as travel restrictions were lifted.
Has HAN Pokhara made any effort to promote Pokhara as a tourist destination internationally?
Most definitely! HAN has been continuously trying to promote tourism in every possible way. We promoted the "Chaliya Pokhara" campaign in India, which has already concluded in Lakhnow, Kanpur, Agra, Banaras, and many other places. This campaign is done annually for 4-5 days in Asar and Shrawan.
Besides that, as soon as the flights started to depart from Kunming to Nepal, we also started our campaign, "Pokhara is pure as Paradise ',' in tandem with the Mayor of China. As a result, paragliding gained popularity among Chinese tourists, who enjoyed the activity since it enabled them to witness mountains, lakes, and hills all at once.
For two decades, HAN Pokhara has been celebrating Nepal New Year and English New Year by hosting a plethora of buskers and events that usually span 5–6 days. The whole hotel inventory in Pokhara is occupied during this time.
What is the current situation of Pokhara's hospitality and travel business sector?
The number of tourists is slowly but surely increasing here in Pokhara, but the lack of experienced and skilled staff in the hospitality sector is worrysome. .
The hospitality industry is severely understaffed, not just here in Pokhara but all over Nepal. Currently, the hotel industry demands about 15,000 skilled workers, but there are only 5,000 available. People involved in the hospitality industry were unable to sustain themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic so some changed their profession, while others went abroad for foreign employment.
What changes have you witnessed over the course of your three decades of working in the hospitality sector?
When I first started my profession, there weren't many people working in this industry, and both the number of tourists and businesses were small.
At that time, domestic visitors and visitors from India were not regarded as legitimate tourists; this approach has been completely reformatted now.
Recent years have seen a considerable rise in the use of social media for marketing and promotion, which is entirely novel compared to my early days in the industry.
Have you noticed any recent changes in Pokhara's tourism industry?
Rafting and kayaking have become less prominent since rivers' flow is diverted by hydropower plants, and tourists to Pokhara are also less interested in rafting as compared to before.
In an attempt to promote rafting in Nepal, HAN Pokhara team members also went rafting recently
Recently, people are trekking independently without the help of trekking agencies. As a result, trekking agencies’ business is at threat. Trekking corporations must adapt their business models to reflect modernity and technology in order to survive as an industry.
What is HAN Pokhara currently busy with?
The hospitality sector went to zero during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was on the verge of collapsing. But now, we have slowly gained momentum, which is why we are currently busy trying to combat the crisis our industry faced.HAN Pokhara is busy preparing the continuation of the past promotion campaigns in a more efficient way. Considering the power of social media, we are also working on promotion plans that include social media influencers.