“We shouldn’t put too much emphasis on numbers but rather on experience.” — Suresh Singh Budal, CEO of PATA Nepal Chapter

2019-07-14, Kathmandu

Suresh Singh Budal, the CEO of PATA since 2013, sits down with Travreport for an interview.

A brief on Himalayan Travel Mart and its impact?

Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM) is Nepal’s premier international travel and tourism trade show facilitating unparalleled networking and business opportunities. HTM binds world-renowned tourism professionals, prospective buyers, hospitality professionals, influencers, adventurers, and high-value speakers to discuss and share insights on contemporary issues, future scopes of the industry or destinations, facilitating opportunities to establish, strengthen or expand business partnerships.

It is an excellent platform for the international market to come face to face and have a first-hand experience in Nepal.

What results can we expect from this year’s HTM 2019?

The HTM 2019 was a launching pad for Visit Nepal Year (VNY) 2020. The event which served as a perfect example of public-private partnership, proved to be helpful in networking and making strategies to welcome two million tourists. Travel professionals and bloggers participating in the HTM 2019 have emphasised on concerted efforts for tourism development keeping in view the new travel trends emerging in the world tourism industry in recent years.

Our ambition is to establish Nepal throughout the international arena and set an identity for the country. The HTM 2019 Conference under the theme ‘Spirit of the Himalayas’  inspired the audience to understand both the tangible and intangible spirits of the Himalayas unveiling its diverse tourism offerings and potential. The event witnessed participation of over 700 delegates from 43 different countries, including more than 150 international delegates and national stakeholders and had presentations from more than 20 speakers including industry leaders, spiritual leaders, mystics, religious gurus, influencers and international tourism experts.

The two day B2B mart saw participation of 58 buyer organisations from 30 different countries and regions like Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Asia and the Gulf. Similarly, there were 54 seller organisations or exhibitors from six different countries including Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Tibet and Thailand.

We introduced Nepal from a new perspective — spiritual tourism. This is the first time monks and dharma gurus participated in the event sharing information about pilgrimages, ayurveda, yoga and meditation.

HTM 2019 also talked about the importance of social media, travel bloggers and online influencers in the tourism market. The International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference (ITBMC), an event alongside HTM brought together 40+ international travel bloggers and media as well as hundreds of local media delegates to promote Nepal as the most promising tourism destination. The speakers during ITBMC emphasised on the role of travel media and bloggers for tourism promotion of a destination and inspired the bloggers/media for creating content and sharing their experiences about Nepal. We hope that this new trend revolutionises the market here.

Besides HTM, how is PATA Nepal Chapter (PNC) involved in the promotion of tourism in Nepal?

PATA has always focused on six main areas — infrastructure, tourism policy, marketing, human capital, research and branding. PNC has become the only full-fledged tourism association in Nepal encompassing almost all stakeholders of Nepali tourism from both the public and private sector. We obviously can’t be everywhere and do everything at the same time, however, we are trying our best to move forward persistently.

PNC has been organising different Human Capacity Building Training and Certification Programmes comprising a series of practical and integrated training approaches involving leading tourism and hospitality institutions, industry practitioners, and Young Tourism Professionals. We are also planning to mobilise our trained student body at the TIA.

We are actively participating in various global events as well as NTB endorsed trade fairs. PNC represents the country in almost all the tourism and travel trade events worldwide. We’re preparing for the PATA Travel Mart 2019 to be held in Kazakhstan. We’ve been publishing reports and researching continuously for the effective implementation and maintaining sustainable tourism market in the country. PNC is also planning to launch a software to optimise the travel experience in Nepal.

Currently, we are looking for partners for our proposed Nepal India China Expo (NICE). If everything goes according to plan, PNC is going to organise NICE by December this year. There are numerous other plans that PNC is going to be a part of or organise in order to make the VNY 2020 successful. We are going forward with full force.

What is your personal take on VNY 2020? Do you think the goal of two million tourists is realistic considering the present condition of Nepal?

We shouldn’t put too much emphasis on numbers but rather on experience. Instead of trying to break any records, we should rather focus on our service delivery. What’s the use of bringing too many people in if we can’t even fulfill the demand-supply ratio?

Nepal recently has been getting an infamous reputation for ‘overtourism’. If we intend on reviving our name as an ‘attractive tourist destination’ rather than a country which accepts over tourism in exchange of money then we really need to pull up our socks and start working.

After the earthquake of 2015, experts predicted Nepal’s tourism to fall drastically for the next decade, but we revived very quickly. Keeping this in mind, Nepal has the potential to do much more and aiming higher may be a good thing. Even if we don’t get two million tourists, providing ‘Lifetime Experiences’ to the number of visitors we receive is a win-win for everybody.

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