Fearing setbacks ahead of Visit Nepal campaign’s launch, tourism board extends CEO's term by three monthsThe selection sub-committee of Nepal Tourism Board on Wednesday invited applications to hire a new CEO.
While the hunt for a new chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board has begun, the board of directors of the country’s tourism promotional body has extended the incumbent chief’s term by another three months.
The four-year term of Chief Executive Officer Deepak Raj Joshi is due to end on December 24.
At least three officials from the private sector and the government told the Post in separate conversations that the urgent move to extend Joshi’s term by three months was an attempt to prevent setback for the country’s tourism promotional body on the eve of the much-hyped Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.
The government is announcing the launch of the campaign on January 1 that has set the target of almost doubling the foreign visitor numbers to two million and generate Rs200 billion in revenues.
On Wednesday, the CEO selection sub-committee of Nepal Tourism Board invited applications for the position of chief at the board which has an annual budget of more than Rs1 billion. They have been given three weeks to submit their application.
If things go as planned, the process to appoint the new chief would take at least two months. But industry insiders say they don’t believe the appointment process will complete on time because of the past track records at the Nepal Tourism Board, where political manoeuvring is rampant.
Controversy has already kicked in as the CEO selection sub-committee in its advertisement has said applicants should be above 35 years old and less than 60 years old.
One private sector representative who wished to remain anonymous questioned the rationale behind setting the minimum and maximum age bars for the CEO post.
“The issue may reach the court,” he said. “And, if this selection process is dragged to the court, it could take months for the board to get a new CEO.”
One of the board members told the Post that they decided to extend Joshi’s term to ensure that the Visit Nepal 2020 plan is not spoiled. “The office could suffer because of possible vacuum, as it has happened before several times,” said the board member, requesting anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media.
“The CEO [Joshi], however, needs to give his consent whether he is willing to serve the additional term. We have not heard from him.”
Joshi declined an interview with the Post.
A three-member CEO selection committee led by Biplab Paudel, executive director of Hotel Barahi in Pokhara who is also one of the board of directors at Nepal Tourism Board representing the private sector, has been entrusted with the task of appointing the CEO. Other members are Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, joint secretary at the Tourism Ministry and Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who also serves on NTB’s board, representing the private sector.
Nepal Tourism Board’s 11-member board consists of five representatives each from the government and the private sector besides the CEO. The tourism secretary chairs the board.
The prospective CEO should have 10 years’ experience in the tourism sector, at least a Master’s degree and should not possess the permanent resident status of any countries.
A high-ranking official at the Tourism Ministry said that if things go as planned, the appointment process could be completed in two months. “But the task is not as easy as it looks,” the official, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity, told the Post.
Nepal Tourism Board was established in 1998 under public-private partnership model with the mandate to promote Nepal in domestic and international markets.
But politics started to bite the organisation and there was a flurry of complaints that the board was not functioning as per its mandate and that it was turning into a playground for corruption.
In February last year, the Special Court convicted two officials of the board, including former CEO Subash Nirola, on corruption charges and sentenced them to seven years in jail. The court, however, gave clean-chit to 20 others in the corruption case.
The CEO appointment process in the board has run into controversy in the past well.
Eight years ago, the board had shortlisted 12 applicants in the first week of November. But the CEO was appointed in December 2015, after four years hiatus. During that period, more than two dozens of writs were filed in courts either to halt or postpone the appointment process.