UPAUL MAJUMDAR has taken over the responsibility for operations as General Manager of the Soaltee Crowne Plaza on July 19, 2015. Majumdar has more than 27 years of experience in the hospitality industry with significant expertise in hotel operations and marketing. Prior to his current role, he was the Chief Executive Officer at Hotel Annapurna Group. He started his career with Oberoi and has gained experience with catering and hospitality in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Majumdar brings with him knowledge of the Nepal hospitality market, the real estate asset perspective as well as a strong understanding of the airline catering business. He spoke to THT Perspectives about his new assignment and the challenges ahead. Excerpts:

You are not new to Nepal’s tourism industry. How does it feel to take up this new responsibility and what are your expectations in this new role?

Yes, I have been involved in getting some international hotel brands into Nepal and bringing some existing properties to a better position. I see a huge demand for Nepal as a destination in the next three to five years and, of course, in the long term the tourism industry is the best bet for Nepal.

I love this country because it has fantastic potential and it is a great place to be for a tourism professional. Soaltee is an established hotel which has been here for a long time. It has a great history and a huge presence and is one of the finest hotels in Nepal. So, I see this as a great opportunity to head the organisation and I see it as a big opportunity and a big challenge as well taking into account where Soaltee has been and where it is going to go.

You are taking over the reins in a most challenging time for tourism. What are your plans for the days ahead?

The current calamity that we had put a huge challenge before the whole country. The tourism industry is a part of that, and so the way I see it is that there are many challenges. But from here the growth can only be upwards.Currently, tourism has been affected in a very big way and occupancy is also low. But this is also because this is the time of the year when tourism is usually slow as it is the monsoons and a lot of mountain areas are inaccessible. This is also the time when vacations are already over. This is low season but again we at Soaltee are using this opportunity to do a number of things like improvements to the property. We are now working on redoing the front porch and other areas. Basically I think what is important right now is to spread the message that Nepal is safe and happening and that we are back in business as usual. Yes, we have been affected but everything is now back on track.

I am excited about being with Soaltee and being a part of Crown Plaza, which is a part of IG Hotels worldwide and has the largest number of rooms. I think at Crowne Plaza we are trying to send out a message, through our international affiliations, that Nepal is safe and we are trying to leverage our connections and garner business to get the message across that we are back on track.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today and is enough being done?

The earthquake has affected tourism in a very big way and there were huge cancellations. There were these travel advisories that came up and they were a big problem. I think currently the tourism industry, the government of Nepal, NTB, travel associations and all operators are working very hard to get these travel advisories switched off. That we have been somewhat successful and certain countries have already come aboard and removed them. But this is something that is needed and we are working on it.

The second challenge is that the international media always reports on calamities and this was a major calamity with worldwide coverage. But the media does not come back to say that now things are back on track. I feel the challenge for us is to send the message to the rest of the world that we are back in business. Traditionally it has been seen that we are not very good in our marketing and promotional efforts, unlike other destinations which have also suffered natural calamities. Their tourism market bounced back very quickly because of the marketing and promotional efforts they took. I think that is where we in Nepal need to do much more. A lot is happening and a lot is being done but I think a lot more is required in terms of marketing and promotion.

As a large hotel we are also ready to play our part.  We are working very closely with the leading tourism players and trying to bring them in on familiarisation trips to see the situation in Nepal for themselves. If they feel assured they will start sending in tour groups and the situation will improve.