Poor aviation infrastrcture major challenge for expansion
Qatar Airways - the national carrier of Qatar - is flying 28 times a week between Doha and Kathmandu, offering connectivity to more than 100 destinations across the world. Samiksha Koirala of Republica caught up Ramdas Shivram, country manager of Qatar Airways, to talk about the airline´s expansion plan and the challenges of operating in Nepal. Excerpts:
What makes Qatar Airways different from other international airlines operating in Nepal?
We are the only five star airlines operating in Nepal. We were also voted as the best airlines in the world in 2011.
What do you think are the challenges in places like Nepal for international company like yours?
The basic challenge in Nepal is the poor aviation infrastructure. The only international here airport doesn´t operate for 24 hours. Air traffic congestion could have been managed by operating the airport round the clock. Lack of proper facilities like shuttle bus and taxi services are the other problems.
Would you like to share us your expansion plan?
As part of our expansion plan, we added seven additional flights a week to and from Kathmandu from October last year. We are positive about further expanding our flights.
Qatar Airways currently operates a modern fleet of 108 aircrafts to 113 key business and leisure destinations worldwide. Last year was a landmark for us as we inducted 15 new destinations to our network. As part of expansion plan, we are launching flights to 11 new destinations, which include Zagreb in Croatia, Perth in Australia, Mombassa in Kenya, Yangon in Myanmar and Helsinki in Finland among others. We have placed orders worth over $50 billion for more than 250 aircraft including Boeing 787s, 777s and Airbus A350s. The rapid expansion of the airlines has prompted the State of Qatar to embark on one of its biggest project -- the construction of new international airport in Doha -- which is scheduled to open this year.
How was your performance during Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011? What is the target for the upcoming year?
We enjoyed average occupancy of 89 percent last year. As our total capacity has increased, our target is to retain the same occupancy level this year.
Which segment of market are you focusing more on?
We are equally focusing on all the segments, which include business travelers, tourist, VFR (visiting-friends and relatives) and workers. Migrant workers comprise 20-25 percent of our total passengers, whereas others are returning passengers. This means, our contribution in bringing foreign tourists to the country is on the rise.
Do you think direct air connectivity between Kathmandu and Doha is helping bring tourists from Qatar to Nepal?
Not only from Qatar, we have been bringing tourists from Europe, North America, South America and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Qatar based expatriate are also visiting Nepal in large numbers particularly for trekking, touring and golfing.
The number of outbound tourist has gone up in recent years. Has your company been successful in inviting Nepali travelers to Qatar through tour packages?
Yes indeed. We recently introduced stopover package called ´City Tour´ where passengers can stop by for a day or two while in Doha