Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Destination overhaul


Pokhara Ė Nepal Tourism Year 2011 was launched with much fanfare and people seemed happy to see this tourist city bustling with activity. The city has transformed quite a bit in the past decade, with 'bulldozer and excavator terrorism' razing hills to create flat land for sale. There is less observed greenery and as the Beed has earlier, Pokhara is aping the wrong model: Kathmandu.

For tourism to really make sense, we need to see not only physical transformation of places, but also the transformation of mindsets. After two days, one runs out of eating options as the 'tomato puree' culture predominates the restaurant industry here. There have to be more restaurants that provide good food at fair prices. Maybe it's time for the specialty restaurants in Kathmandu to expand.

It was also surprising to see most of the restaurants rejecting credit cards. With Nepalis increasingly using plastic money, we can't hope to be a tourist destination if we only accept cash deals. Further, the banks have to ensure that ATMs dispense money on demand if we are to rely on cash. Similarly, Internet connections are not meant for business hotels alone. The Internet is akin to mobile phones in the early days of the technology: a necessary tool for travellers to stay connected with the wider world. Having sloppy Internet connections or charging a bomb for connectivity is not tourist friendly.

Of course, the most important transformation we need to see is in service delivery. Since the tourism slump of the conflict years, despite a recovery, it seems we have forgotten how to service full restaurants or hotels. Our politicians, who run the unions and like to impose the philosophy of a state-owned seller's market, would probably like to see employees in private enterprises work like those in government monopolies. Like the staff at Nepal Electricity Authority or Nepal Airlines, employees at some tourist establishments seem to think they are gods and we, the customers, are at their mercy.

We need to understand that workers are paid to provide good service. Productivity and wages need to be linked. In some places in Pokhara, we actually felt we were a big burden imposed on employees who would rather sit around twiddling their thumbs. There are of course exceptions. One need only observe the staff at the highly successful Busy Bee Cafť to wonder why other restaurants aren't the same.

But Pokhara must also make more of its incredible natural beauty. Simply dumping tourists there is not enough. Planning is necessary to determine how the lake can be used for more than just rowboat rides. How about a pathway around the lake for walks? The challenge is to find more options to keep visitors busy.

What better time than now to think about destination overhaul? It's not more construction that we need, it is sprucing up the constructions we have and upgrading our soft skills. Why not more training programs, more awareness programs and of course, a paradigm shift on how we think about service and service delivery?

1. hange
Spot on.  Excellent article that hits the point: we don't truly know how to provide service to customers.  Our maintenance efforts (if any) are similar; we make roads but leave them to crumble.  We're donated beautiful Japanese/Chinese buses but then leave them to (literally) fall apart because no one maintains them.  We have a "use and abuse" policy where we try to milk everything for what it's worth and then make a quick escape-netas included.  If we are to truly be a successful hotspot for tourism, we have to be in it for the longhaul and plan accordingly.

2. Dr B
Fully agree with hange, "Spot on". You can't really assess the negative effects of many of the issues mentioned unless you have been a tourist in Nepal yourself, and I have ....... twice a year mostly for the past 10 years or so. Too many incidents to mention, but one will suffice: We recently hosted a group of friends visiting Kathmandu who were staying at the most famous name hotel in Thamel. Their visit began with the hotel failing to meet them at the airport at night, 9pm, despite transport being booked and confirmed. Mid visit they took a trip to Dulikhel for two nights, left their baggage and a firm booking to return for the last four nights, only to find on their return that there was "no room at the inn", their rooms had been let and they were shuffled off to be split across two hotels.
Welcome to Nepal!

3. AS

Totally agree with Beed here. Food sucks in Pokhara. Every other restaurant in Lakeside have everything from Nepali, Indian, Chinese, Italian, French, American, Thai, and Mexican food in their menu. How can a chef know how to cook so many variety of dishes well?

4. SKR
Liked the article's direction but I am not sure who are the "we" that it is directed to. I think this kind of Nepali analysis suffers from the very Nepali problem of lumping every Nepali, the ineffectual, generic "we" as the audience. There are as many "we" as there are issues: the culture, the mindset, the physical infrastructure, the service quality, etc. However, there is no one "we" that will be able to take Mr. Beed's critique and implement it in every issue area.

The article's message would be strengthened if Mr. Beed pointed out that maybe the restaurant owners and association operating in Pokhara need to ensure that they police themselves, they train their staff to provide superior service. After all, they are the real stakeholders who stand to benefit from providing better service. 

So for each of the problem areas that is raised, it would have been nice to see who is really in a position of action to have an impact and why they don't seem to have any incentive to make these well-intentioned changes. 

The generic "we" -- as in we the Nepali people, I presume -- have been finding faults with our own vague, diffused, impersonal and unresponsive selves for way too long. Maybe "we" need to start by changing that mindset first. SRK @

5. Bibek

Can we get rid from concept of Jagir and Miopic nature of we Nepalese? We really lack clear vision, path and process to attain the vision, so every solution we take is more dangeeous than the problem it self. Mr. Beed must have been tired of telling all these things.

6. Suva
Walking down the Lake Side feels sometimes like walking down the streets of any tourist resort in the US, and not like a tourist spot in Nepal. Like you said, the mindset needs to change to more authentic business, Nepali food, Pokharali food. There can be lots of variety of Nepalese dish other than dal-bhat. Make it so special that when home grown tourists from big-brother-city Kathmandu visit, they feel the difference eating out in Pokhara. No more carrying around dal-roti or alu-chyura.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)