In a special interview, Mr. Pankaj Pradhananga of Four Season Travel & Tours in Kathmandu, Nepal, sat down with the newly-appointed CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, Mr. Deepak Raj Joshi.
The position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nepal Tourism Board has been vacant since October 31, 2011. So the appointment of a new CEO to lead the country’s national tourism organization was welcomed by the industry to say the least. Mr. Deepak Raj Joshi has been named to lead the NTB for the next 4 years, and eTurboNews (eTN) was able to sit down with him for an exclusive interview.
eTN: On behalf of eTN, we congratulate you on being appointed as the 4th CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). How do you feel in general, as the leader of the tourism industry of Nepal, and about the NTB in particular?
DEEPAK RAJ JOSHI: Thank you. It is indeed a great responsibility as well as a challenge to lead the National Tourism Board of Nepal. As you know, 2015 was a year full of unprecedented challenges, whether it be the April earthquake or the blockade in the southern borders. I feel determined to do my best to help the destination shine again, and I know it is just a matter of time.
eTN: What would be your immediate priorities to regain confidence for destination Nepal?
JOSHI: I would focus on the basics first, as we must be able to deliver what we promise. The destination still holds a great attraction and confidence, provided we are able to communicate effectively to potential travelers that Nepal is able to provide inspiring holidays to all segments of tourists.
We will focus on the effective marketing of the destination. Since we are located between India and China, two of the fastest-growing markets, we must focus on these markets and use that benefit of our location. We will also attract the emerging markets in Asia like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Myanmar. The existing markets like Korea and Japan, where we have direct flight connections, will also be given attention to get the numbers up.
eTN: How do you see the role of the NTB in building much-needed bonding among South Asian tourism destinations as all of them are interlinked?
JOSHI: Yes, the tourism industry in the South Asian region is very much interconnected and dependent upon one another. The drop in arrival of tourists in North India will have an impact in arrivals to Nepal. Likewise, any adverse development in Nepal will adversely hit Bhutan tourism. Hence, it is high time to build confidence and a long-term vision for South Asian tourism as one destination. I will do my best to play a constructive role.
eTN: Since the NTB was formed to drive the tourism industry in a public-private partnership (PPP) model, what kind of support would you seek and what type of synergy do you plan to create with the private sector?
JOSHI: Nepal tourism was developed, managed, and promoted by the private sector right from its infancy. I will facilitate to create the much-needed trust and synergy in order to boost the industry. Needless to say, I will work in tandem with the private sector.
eTN: How do you influence the policy towards a more sustainable development of tourism, especially focusing on inclusive/tourist-friendly reconstruction since the earthquake?
JOSHI: I am strong believer of rewarding the right practices and recognizing the catalysts. It is a must to strengthen our national airline, Nepal Airlines, as well as to give a level playing field to international private airlines. Connectivity is the key for successful promotion of tourism. I will also do the work necessary to convince and persuade the concerned authorities to keep accessibility issues in consideration as the reconstruction work starts.
eTN: You worked at NTB for 1.5 decades and now as the newly-appointed CEO, what do you think it lacks the most in order to leave the past baggage behind and move ahead with renewed zeal?
JOSHI: I will do everything possible to make its presence felt. The industry looks up to NTB as a leader, hence we will not let them down. We are thinking to outsource expert services like IT, digital marketing, etc. NTB will work to deliver target-based results for the benefit of destination Nepal. It will also strive to promote domestic tourism which is largely overlooked.
eTN: We know the very fact that Nepal’s average spending per tourist/per day has dropped down significantly in recent years. Would you focus on the number of tourist arrivals or do you believe more in the quality of the tourists that do come?
JOSHI: We would need a balanced approach with a greater number of higher spending tourists. It is a daunting task, but achievable with the right strategy and continued initiatives.
eTN: What message do you have for Nepal & Nepalese tourism industry to be hopeful that the tourism industry will bounce back soon?
JOSHI: Let’s believe in our destination. Nepal is known for organic hospitality, which is our strength. Friends of Nepal are supporting and promoting through word of mouth, social media, and revisiting the destination. It is just a matter of time, being hopeful, and working collectively that are the keys.
eTN: What is the most important message Nepal should share with world’s tourism professionals?
JOSHI: I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for standing by our side in the difficult times. Nepal might be a challenging destination, but it is highly rewarding emotionally and spiritually. We are grateful to all our partners for their continued support, love, and much-needed energy to bounce back. We wish them a very happy New Year and look forward to seeing them in Nepal in 2016.