EDITORIAL: Hotel concerns

If the number of tourists could be increased by developing new products of tourism, the hotel industry would hardly have to be scared of homestay

In the past few years, the homestay business has flourished, especially in rural areas, which has served to promote rural tourism. In the rural areas, including the trekking trails, there are a few hotels, and the homestay services provide food and lodgings to tourists as the operators keep their guests in their houses in a family environment. Homestay services have also been growing in urban areas where tourists come. The government has taken the policy of encouraging the homestay business, particularly in the rural areas, and there are criteria set for providing these services. Some have taken permits from the concerned authorities, but others have been plying their trade illegally.  But the domestic hoteliers are against the operation of these services in the urban areas which, they claim, have started hurting the hotel industry. According to Amar Man Shakya, president of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), the homestay business is illegal in cities and the government should take immediate measures to control it there, for example, in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.

Speaking at a seminar organized by HAN in the capital on Wednesday, its representatives blamed the present sad state of the hotel industry on the inability of the government to bring in more tourists whereas the number of hotels is increasing – almost three dozen star hotels are in the process of starting operation by 2020, adding 4,000 star rooms to the hotel industry by that time. Indeed, several things that should have been considerably improved to lure more tourists have not been done in any significant way. The growth of the tourism industry, including the hotel business, has been hindered by several factors, such as weak air connectivity, poor tourist handling at Tribhuvan International Airport, including the perennial sickness of the Nepal Airlines Corporation, the national flag carrier, delay in the construction of other regional and international airports, vehicular traffic congestion, the often poor condition of roads connecting various tourist destinations, and severe air pollution.

But the impact of urban homestay services on the hotel industry seems exaggerated to a certain extent. Here, the two most important things are the size of tourist inflow and the quality of tourists. In both these areas, mainly the government and, to some extent, the tourism entrepreneurs have not been able to make much difference over the years. Other factors also came into play since the start of the armed conflict in the country, particularly political instability and security concerns of foreigners, and the major earthquakes that struck the country two years ago. If the number of tourists could be considerably increased by, among other things, developing new products of tourism, the hotel industry would hardly have to be scared of the homestay business. Nepal has not emphasized quality tourism, unlike some other countries, as the vast majority of tourists visiting the country are very low-budget tourists who will look for the cheapest places to live in and eat during their stay in Nepal. But at the same time, illegally opened homestay services should be controlled.

Install solar lights

Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has instructed all 143 municipalities to install solar-powered street lights by mid-April. The directive had to be issued again after it was found that some of them had yet to install solar street lights even though a budget has been allocated for the purpose in the current fiscal. The government has planned to install as many as 45,308 solar street lights along the 1,100-km of roads falling under 143 municipalities who had submitted proposals to this effect. The solar-street lights are to be installed under the partnership of the ministry, local level and users’ groups.

Once the solar street lights are installed the municipalities will be free from paying electricity bill to Nepal Electricity Authority which also has been unable to collect tariff from the municipalities. The electricity to be used from the grids for lighting municipal streets can be distributed to household consumers and industries boosting the national economy. The ministry has allocated Rs. 500 million for installation of the solar street lights to 143 municipalities this fiscal. The municipalities must be able to utilize the fund for using the clean renewable energy without any delay.