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CUSTOMER IS KING

BHOLA BIKRAM THAPA
President of President Group of Companies

Nothing can beat hard work, dedication and innovation for success in work and life, and this stands especially true for the President of President Group, Bhola Bikram Thapa who started his career as ticketing personnel with Yeti Travels.

When he established the company nearly 40 years ago it was literally a-one-man-band, however today the company has over 100 employees, is a recognised travel and tourism brand, and has been awarded by several airlines including Qatar, Silk and Etihad for its outstanding performance.

President Group over the years has witnessed and has withstood the test of time. It has been challenged with the highs and lows of tourism in Nepal, and each time has successfully delivered. Nepal‘s struggle to counter negative travel advisory in the 90‘s and the outstanding comeback Nepal made in 1998 with the Visit Nepal campaign and then in 2011 with the Visit Nepal Year was successful because of the efforts of a handful of people. Among them was Bhola Bikram Thapa in charge of the Civil Aviation and TIA subcommittee for NTY 2011. He worked relentlessly as a mediator between the airlines and the civil aviation authority to ease problems between the two bodies. For this very reason in 2013, Tribhuvan International Airport recognised and awarded President Group for extending support to the Airlines Operators Committee.

He is also the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Bulgaria in Nepal. Thapa believes Nepal‘s tourism sector is growing despite the sometimes dire situations. Business 360 spoke with Bhola Bikram Thapa going back in time to dwell on the success of President Group, his work mantra and Nepal‘s tourism industry at large.

Excerpts:

Could you share some of the tourism highs Nepal has witnessed during your career? How has the industry evolved?

Visit Nepal 98 and Visit 2011 were landmark processes which helped to steer Nepal‘s tourism sector towards a positive direction, the growth of tourism has been high and spontaneous ever since.
Tourism having a long history has really changed since its development in 1950, it has grown and has contributed a lot in terms of economy and employment. In 2015 alone Nepal‘s tourism industry supported over 504,000 jobs, and despite the quake the tourism industry has recovered significantly. According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism council, the direct contribution of travel amd tourism to GDP in 2014 was Rs 83.7bn (4.3% of GDP). This forecast rose by 5.4% to Rs 88.2bn in 2015. This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). But it also includes, for example, the activities of restaurant and leisure industries. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 4.4% pa to Rs 135.7bn (4.8% of GDP) by 2025.

What are the joys and challenges of being in the tourism industry?

Since I chose my career in the tourism sector, I have achieved a lot during my travel trade journey, I got opportunities to interact with national and international clientele with several counterparts around the world, which was initially a big challenge for me.

BHOLA-BIKRAM-THAPA

What have been your most memorable achievements?

To be granted the opportunity to represent Qantas Airways as their General Sales Agent in 1994 was one of our major achievements.

What is  the competition  in the tourism sector like?

There is a lot of competition and healthy competition inspires development in tourism. This is why there are a lot of private sector companies involved in hospitality/ travel management in Nepal. I also believe competition should exist in tourism as it benefits travelers and the country.

A few key traits someone in this industry must have?

Innovation: one needs to be innovative in this sector as it is at heart of any successful company‘s agenda.
Active Participation: we definitely need to actively participate in solving problems in the public/private sector and come to joint solutions.

Your success mantra…

I believe “Nothing is impossible and it is impossible for there to be nothing”. As I thought of opening a travel agency I moved ahead with the inspiration of my wife and family. I still think I have to do a lot more to achieve success.

I also believe that ever since its inception, President Group has been guided by five core values which have guided us towards success:

  • Customer Satisfaction: We give utmost to the needs of our customers.
  • Passion for Excellence: We are committed to achieving the highest level of service performance.
  • Ethical Customer Management: Each transaction we make with our customer is managed in a ethical manner and our belief in going beyond a long mutually beneficial business relationship.
  • Thinking outside box: In an effort to meet the unique needs and requirements of our customers we provide solutions that venture well beyond the normal mode of thinking.
  • Reliability: Providing the level of reliability that helps in fostering trustworthiness from our customers.

As a group, we also believe it is our moral obligation to be a responsible corporate entity. To enhance and make better the community that we live in. Hence, we support various NGO‘s such as Umbrella Nepal that is working with orphaned children.

Could you tell us about your  company‘s  expansion?

I started this company in 1977, with handful of staff members, today we have the strength of more than 100 fellow coworkers and few airline representations which lies under the relentless effort of my co-workers.

How do you keep yourself updated with the travel and tourism trends?

Travel Trade journals, web based news and social media are the basic key information to update myself.

Do you think Nepal‘s tourism infrastructure reflects the tourism industry in Nepal?

No it doesn‘t, Nepal needs to improve basic infrastructure such as road and electricity. At the moment we have sustainable tourists. We have not been able to really portray ourselves to the world. We need more hotels; we have problems of occupancy during peak season. We also need to have more airlines coming into Nepal who would in turn promote our country to the world. We need to focus on marketing, and bring more awareness to the world as to what Nepal is all about.

To increase the ratio these have to be taken into first priority to expand tourism as well as foreign investment in tourism hospitality.

What according to  you are  the three major challenges the industry faces and how could these be addressed?

  1. Communication and advertising to publicise Nepal worldwide.
  2. Lack of sufficient resources, statistics to run the task of conserving natural heritage of Nepal.
  3. Unstable political situation of the country

We also aren‘t financially strong, and we have not been able to market ourselves as others have. We don‘t even have a proper national carrier. You cannot promote the country without a national carrier.

What is the net worth of President Group of companies, how many employees do you have?

President Group of Companies has a total strength of almost 110 co-workers and enjoys the representation of seven airlines as GSA, Rail Europe, two sister concerns, and almost 45 corporates to take care as their official vendor.

Could you tell us about your childhood?

Being the only son in my family, I was pampered by everyone in the family. My early childhood was spent in St. Xavier‘s Godavari.  College days were memorable as we were four boys ready for any mission. My father served for the Nepal Government as District Judge in a remote area. I lost my mother at the age of 15.

Your son now works with you how has this changed the way the company functions?

I have a  lot of expectations from my son and I am confident that he will invigorate the trend that I have rooted with my sweat and effort. He will prosper more than me.

Quick Bytes:

Favourite  destination
My farm house in Chitwan

Three things that make your travel a pleasure
New Destination, good airline with less stopovers

Your Kind of holiday
My holiday home, music and my family.

A tip you would give to someone in case of a travel emergency?

We at the President Group of companies believe that improving travel experience and customer satisfaction is at the core of our very existence. We continue to remain an up-to-date full service tourism and travel agency based in Kathmandu, Nepal and a leader in the profession. So, if there is an emergency while you are in Nepal contact us at 9851020881 round the clock, you will be attended in no time.

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