‘The pandemic has made us pay attention to the local market’Hotel Yak and Yeti’s Sales and Marketing Director Sagar Chandra Bantawa Rai on the pandemic’s impact on the hotel industry, the importance of domestic tourism, and the hotel’s campaign to celebrate Kathmandu Valley’s resilience.
In 1885, when Bir Sumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, a music and architecture enthusiast, constructed Lal Durbar, also known as the Red Palace, everyone was amazed by the palace’s architecture, which beautifully blended the traditional art with modernity
After the end of the Rana regime, a fine dining restaurant was opened in the palace, and it quickly became a popular destination among tourists visiting Kathmandu. Then in 1977, on the occasion of World Tourism Day, Hotel Yak and Yeti was opened, and the hotel has since been serving guests from all over the world.
Hotel Yak and Yeti’s Sales and Marketing Director Sagar Chandra Bantawa Rai sat with Post's Pinki Sris Rana to talk about the pandemic’s impact on the hotel, how the historic hotel is navigating in a market that has changed a lot in the last two years, and the hotel's campaign ‘This is Kathmandu’. Excerpts:
With the increase in the number of premium international hotel brands in Nepal, what do you think are the challenges and opportunities for Nepali premium hotel brands like Hotel Yak and Yeti?
The increase in international premium brands in the country is a natural growth process. There's even a sense of pleasure to see such international brands take an interest in our country. Rather than viewing them as a challenge, we have been taking this competition as an opportunity. Hotel Yak and Yeti’s storied legacy has also made things a bit easier for us. International brands thrive for a short period, but I believe the local brands and their affinity with their customer sustains the business in the long run. That is why we don't see international hotel chains as a threat but rather a reminder to stand by what we have always believed in.
How has the pandemic impacted Hotel Yak and Yeti?
Like any other business, the pandemic dealt a big blow to Hotel Yak and Yeti. Despite the challenges the pandemic posed us with, it also provided us with an opportunity to get creative. Due to the pandemic, we have started exploring different avenues to generate business. Before the pandemic, foreigners made up our entire client base, but the pandemic has made us pay attention to the local market, and we are proud to say that in this current situation, our business is sustained by the domestic tourism market.
The Nepali market has always been very price-sensitive, and given the economic challenges the pandemic has caused, the domestic market is more price-conscious than ever. How is a premium hotel like Hotel Yak and Yeti navigating to stay competitive in such a scenario?
Yes, this is very true. Before the pandemic, it was very rare for Nepalis to stay at luxury hotels in Kathmandu. There was this general misconception among Nepalis that premium hotels in Kathmandu charge a lot, and therefore many would not even make an effort to check rates. But the pandemic has helped us break down that misconception. When hotels like ourselves were suffering huge losses with no foreigners arriving in the country, we had to be more open to the local market. We made an effort to understand the domestic market, and our efforts paid off as the local market also started seeing us as an option for their getaway. People have now started considering residential weddings, which has helped us business-wise.
Many premium hotels have introduced special stay packages for the domestic market to attract customers. Do you think offering discounted rates pose any challenges to the long term brand image of premium hotels?
After researching and analysing the domestic market, we decided to roll out a staycation package for the domestic market for Rs 11,111, which is still available. As part of this package, we offer guests a welcome cocktail, a night’s stay in a luxurious room, a five-course dinner and breakfast/brunch for the next day. We have pulled all stops to promote this package so that our targeted audience is aware of it. The response to the package has been quite good
But merely introducing packages and deals for the domestic market is not enough. Hotels must make an effort to make the domestic market see the value proposition in the deals offered. People need to see the value our product provides them with, and we need to ensure we communicate that properly.
All in all, the decisions we have taken to generate businesses in the midst of this pandemic have helped us break the barriers between us and the domestic market and helped us explore a new business avenue.
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve events, the final week of December is considered an essential business period for premium hotels and restaurants in the city. How’s Hotel Yak and Yeti’s New Year event going to be any different from the rest?
We are doing a New Year's Eve event titled 'This is Kathmandu' on December 31. The valley and its residents have been through a lot in the last two years, and this event has been designed to responsibly celebrate the resilience the valley, its residents, and our industry has shown in the last two years. The New Year's Eve event is the first of many events we have lined up with the theme 'This is Kathmandu'. Since the world is still recovering from the pandemic, we have planned these thematic events to send a message that Nepal is also recovering. When our international guests come across this information, we hope that it will help instil confidence in them to travel to our country again.
What can your guests expect from your hotel’s New Year’s Eve event happening on December 31?
Our New Year’s Eve event, which is the first of the many events of our theme ‘This is Kathmandu’, is a musical event. We have Adrian Pradhan Collective and Subani Moktan as our leading performers, and it will be hosted by Nishma Chaudary. From earthquakes to the pandemic, we have been through a lot in the last few years. With this event, we would like our guests to say goodbye to the difficult years and welcome a brand new year with renewed optimism and positivity.