“Hospitality Is The Right Industry”

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Anil Malik is the general manager of Radisson Hotel Kathmandu since August 2013. He has wide experience in the hospitality sector and this is his third tenure with the Carlson Group. Earlier he has worked with the Grand Hyatt, Centara Hotels and Resorts and the O Hotel. He spoke to the New Business Age about his experience in Nepal and the tourism possibilities of the country. Excerpts: 
 
Tell us about your career and corporate journey?
Right from my childhood I have seen my mother hosting guests at home. I did Bachelor of Science with geology as major. However after graduation I got interested in hospitality. I appeared in the all India entrance examination, I was qualified and with great hard work I jumped into the hospitality industry.
 
Why hotels and hospitality? What points of attraction and challenges mark work in hotel sector? 
I personally feel that hospitality is the only sector where you meet so many unique people, learn new culture and learn new food habits. That’s why I personally feel that hospitality is the right industry for a person like me who loves food and meet new people. 
 
Carlson Group is the only group, which is expanding, in large capacity. In India we in 2014 we are expecting to have 50 new properties. We are expanding in China, and Hong Kong. In Nepal there are possibilities of expansion and my company is seriously looking to it. Because the country has lots of potential and I have also visited some of the places such as Chitawan and Pokhara, which hold high possibilities. A feasibility report for these possibilities is underway and which I look forward to present at the Carlson office. Carlson has got various brands under its umbrella. We have got budget segments therefore possibilities can be worked out according to the demand.  
 
What major practices have you introduced in Radisson in the last quarter?
When I joined I found training opportunities lacking here. There are many hotel management colleges in the country but the biggest challenge is that most of the graduate go aboard to work thereby creating scarcity of skilled manpower. Since my initial days here I have always tried to engage with the staff and to make them more management friendly. There are a number of union issues in Nepal and here also there were some issues in the past. I have been trying to resolve this issue in a professional way by engaging with the employees and interacting with them through open communication channels. As part of this strategy, we started organizing Friday town hall meeting where the general manager interacts about the budget and other management issues with the staff. This is one of the initiations that I took. Apart from that we have started participating in various corporate social responsibility programmes and as a part of it we have made some donation to the Red Cross Nepal and on February 15 we organized Radathon in association with the Nepal Tourism Board.
 
What contribution have you made specifically in making the hotel more hospitable? 
Last year we added around hundred rooms to existing 160 rooms capacity of hotel Radisson. The additional hundred rooms are very modern compared to other hotels. And now my task is to see that the corporate people target these hundred rooms. To achieve this objective we are building close ties with the corporate sector. Besides this we are going to open the doors of our new Indian cuisine restaurant to our guest and adding to that a Japanese restaurant opening in the pipeline. 
 
What are the major challenges of hotel industry in Nepal? How do you think they can be addressed? 
Recently Trip Advisor rated Nepal as the hottest destination. The only challenge I personally feel here is that the tour operators who are getting this groups in the country they are somehow trying to undersell Nepal as a major tourist destination. The occupancy must have grown but not the revenue and let’s not forget that tourism plays a very important role in the development of the country’s economy. Therefore we should try not to undersell Nepal. Costly airfare is another problem. It costs around Rs 50,000 to fly back and forth to Delhi. Such a high fare, I think, is bringing down the number of Indian tourist visiting Nepal. At the same time the rooms are expensive as we have 18 hours power cuts and we cannot compromise with our services for our guests. That is revenue is less and expenses are more. 
 
Tourism potentials are very high in Nepal but the income is still around $ 5 billion and 11 per cent of the nation’s GDP. Where is  the disconnect? What can be done in this context by the private sector and the government?
In Nepal there are many areas, which can be explored. Tourist visit Nepal mostly to see Kathmandu. The government of Nepal along with the Nepal Tourism Board should brand it as ‘Explore Nepal’ and they should come out with new destinations that are still to be explored. I personally feel that the government should identify new values and new areas to attract much more tourist. 
 
What is the situation of skilled manpower in the hospitality industry?
There are eight five-star hotels since a very long time. Though the government has itself not taken any measures to expand it, very soon three hotels are coming to Nepal. Along with that the government has also signed agreements with around ten other five-star properties. Opening of these hotels will open new job opportunities. What I have found is staff appointment in Nepal is very low. Job openings are available only if a person retires from the position or moves abroad. So how do you expect to have new talent when there are no new hotels and no new vacancies?
 
What are your suggestions to the major hotel and tourism management colleges? What inputs should they make to develop talent here?
They have to be more professional, the corporate culture has to be taught and exposure has to be given to them. And the same time they should have a tie up with some groups of hotel where some concrete steps can be taken. At the moment my hotel has around 80 trainees but what about the other students as there are only eight five-star hotels.  Definitely the remaining students will move abroad. 
 
What is your personal management philosophy with regards to hotel management and its efficient leadership?
Speaking on a personal note there has to be a leadership quality and attitude has to be very positive. Along with it one should have an urge to teach the juniors, should believe in teamwork as it’s not possible to achieve the objectives without team work. At the same time one should try to impart maximum knowledge to juniors to make the team competent. The country should also have a corporate culture, which I hope will definitely grow. 
 

Sujan Basnet

Dear Mr. Malik, Pleased to read your personal experience and your concept about about tourism industry in Nepal. I agreed on you but not fully; allow me to share my experiences as well that may provides you a clear vision why it's hard to find career motivated hotelier in Nepal. Yes correct that hundreds of hospitality collages are there only in kathmandu because of what you people from Hotel as well as from those collages getting advantanges; the managment of Hotel gives priority to those passed out students and force fully make them stand on your hotel in the name of intermship; they can't get their Degree until they finished their 6-9 months intermship. But the problem is they don't get chance to get trained fully as their carriculum even the basic hospitality. Fully from 6-9 months for 8-10hrs a day like a donkey they have to work either at Housekeeping or Kitchen helper. And get frustrated because they have BHM degree but they have to do low level jobs. After completion if they desire to work in same hotel; if they apply there they hotel will say, sorry currently we have no vacancy. They will never have vacancies because every year they are getting fresh students and from them they are getting their job done with no pay. i have same experiences as you do. I did my BSc Environmental Science then i had been to Australia doing Advance Diploma in H.M. After completion of a thought came to my mind that i will do some thing in my own coutry using my knowlwdge and experiences. I left australia and came back to nepal. Was vacancy at one of the 5 star perperties in kathmandu for HK Department. Had been selected on short list, position available was 2 and they called 4 of us for Interview; and the interview was such a shit i was so suprised, they were asking me a shit questions. After 2 weeks came to know non of us been selected. The rest 3 was BHM holder and the intermship holder of the same hotel. so whoever have passion for hospitality and are career motivative obviously look forward and go abroad. Please don't blame other; try to change hotelier concept at nepal. I was willing to work in own coutry but no hotel gave me the chance. That's why i had to go Malaysia working at a Travel Agency as an travel agent and currently i am in Saudi Arabia working for Marriott International from last 18 months.

Amrit Giri

Well said Mr. Basnet.