"Bandipur Unveiled: A Conversation with Asutosh Pradhan on Tourism, Culture, and Hotel Industry"
Nestled in the heart of Nepal, Bandipur, with its rich cultural heritage and captivating natural beauty, stands as a testament to the country's diverse charm. It offers a unique blend of Newari culture and diverse ethnic experiences.
Asutosh Pradhan, an 8th generation Newar with roots in Bhaktapur, has built a prominent presence in the tourism sector. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in culture and tourism from Tribhuvan University, Pradhan reflects on his 15-year journey in the industry and the purpose of establishing the hotel ‘Matina Chhen’ in Bandipur.
Q: What was your inspiration behind getting into the tourism field and opening your hotel in your hometown?
During my childhood, I had different aspirations, but now, after 15 years in the tourism industry, my inspiration is driven by the desire to contribute to the field's improvement and betterment. Opening a hotel in Bandipur is a result of my personal motivation, rooted in the natural urge to do something significant in my hometown.
Q: What does Bandipur have to offer in particular?
Accesibility is its major attraction. Bandipur holds a strategic location, right in the middle of Nepal, amidst the golden formations of Pokhara, Chitwan, and Kathmandu. Just 7 kilometers from the Prithvi highway, it also boasts natural and cultural beauty, including the influence of Newari culture from Bhaktapur, which encompasses diverse ethnic cultures and castes.
Q: What is the major attraction of the Hotel Matina Chhen?
The hotel's slogan, "Heritage with Luxury," perfectly encapsulates its essence. Designed based on Newari architecture, Hotel Matina Chhen immerses guests in the authentic ethnicity of Newari culture. We offer Newari food, conduct cooking classes, and have plans for the
'Bandipur Bagaicha' farmhouse, where tourists can engage in plantations, farming, and various activities.
Q: How is the local community engaged in the hotel?
Traditionally engaged in agriculture and trading, the local community now actively participates in the hotel, with over 15 individuals directly involved. The 'Bandipur Bagaicha' initiative further promotes agrotourism by allowing tourists to stay on the farm and partake in activities like yoga, meditation, and animal husbandry with local assistance.
Q: What are some major problems faced by you while operating the hotel?
Financial constraints pose a significant challenge, along with market-related issues. He stressed the importance of overcoming these challenges with enthusiasm, financial planning, and the delivery of excellent products. Building a strong market is essential, focusing not only on the location but also on providing outstanding services.
Q: How can current problems be solved?
Addressing current challenges requires a proper vision, the formation of a robust advisory group, and a commitment to honesty. Emphasizing brand and marketing importance, along with proper budget allocation and a focus on green economy policies, can contribute to overcoming these hurdles. Research-based policies, especially in understanding the motivational factors for tourists visiting Nepal, are crucial.
Q: How can we encourage youths to be engaged in politics to improve its condition?
Despite the common perception that politics is a dirty game, active youth participation is essential for the country's betterment. Frustration due to unemployment and inadequate salaries often drives youths to seek opportunities abroad. However, active political engagement is necessary to contribute to the country's development.
Q: Can your engagement in politics be a source of inspiration?
Serving as the spokesperson for the 'Bibeksheel Sajha Party,' my involvement in politics is driven by the belief that significant change starts from within. My aim is to reduce foreign employment, promote entrepreneurship, and motivate the youth.
Q: Could you expand further on the problems affecting employment in the nation?
The issue lies not only in employment but in the mindset. There's a misconception that engaging in agriculture with a master’s degree is undesirable. Shifting the mindset from seeking opportunities abroad to recognizing those in Nepal is essential. While employment opportunities exist, the lack of welfare states and government guarantees for investment and employment remains a challenge.
Q: Are there problems regarding education and brain drainage in Nepal?
Yes, there are issues. The education system often focuses on topics unrelated to Nepal's tourism promotion, emphasizing superstitious aspects abroad. Urging returning youths to contribute to Nepal's development is crucial, and the education system should be revised to align with native-friendly practices.
Q: What would be the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the tourism industry?
Strengths lie in our natural beauty and culture. Weaknesses include political intervention and unexplored areas, while economic dependence poses a threat. Opportunities lie in the unexplored potential of cultural diversity, requiring proper branding and research-based marketing strategies.
Q: Could you explain the opportunities in Nepal, especially regarding untapped potential?
Nepal's untapped potential lies in its cultural diversity, often overshadowed by the mountain-trekking adventure narrative. Commercializing and preserving our culture without losing authenticity is crucial. Every individual can contribute to the tourism industry, subdividing it into agriculture, hydro-projects, technology, etc. Exploring climatic conditions worldwide to attract tourists in every season and adopting a blue ocean marketing strategy are opportunities that need research-based planning.
Q: What research projects are you working on in that regard?
My research focuses on the commodification and commercialization of culture, heritage, and homestays in Nepal. These projects aim to contribute valuable insights to the tourism industry.
Q: What does Bandipur lack as a tourist destination?
Bandipur, like the entire nation, lacks infrastructure. Poor road conditions result in prolonged travel times, and a lack of marketing, especially from the local government, remains a significant problem. The absence of skilled human resources, as many youths aim to work abroad, further compounds the challenges.
Q: Could airline connectivity help in solving infrastructure problems?
Airline issues in Nepal, primarily high airfares, hinder tourism development. The government's mismanagement affects airlines and airport operations. Clear plans are required, whether prioritizing the quality or quantity of tourists. The government's goal of a million tourists, with a significant portion being non-resident Nepalis who don't contribute to the sector, raises concerns.
Q: What are the new and future major attractions in Bandipur and the hotel?
Bandipur has evolved since the launch of the tourism project in 2002. New activities, such as the Thanimai to Mukandshwori hiking trail and paragliding, are being introduced. Tours to places like 'Ramkot,' 'Korikha,' 'Dada chap,' and 'Dharampani,' along with attractions like the 'Siddha Cave,' the biggest cave in Nepal, and the botanical trail in Raniban, are part of the future plans.
Q: What message would you like to convey about Bandipur and Hotel Matina Chhen?
Bandipur, the queen of hills, offers breathtaking views of mountain ranges like Dhaulagiri and Langtang. It is renowned for its culture and architecture, showcasing masterful Newari artwork.
With diverse cultures like Magar and Gurung, we invite everyone to visit Bandipur and experience its unique charm by staying at Hotel Matina Chhen.