Province Government Should Be Also Responsible Towards Tourism:Sarita Lama, General Secretary-TAAN

Interview News World


October 6, 2020/Kathmandu-
What was the immediate action of TAAN after the lockdown?
-First of all soon after the lockdown, we were busy rescuing our tourists from different places. They were our priority as they are our guests. Then we focused on our guides. I remember a guide who was stuck in Lukla for 9 days. We had chartered and brought them from Lukla, Muktinath, Pokhara and other places to Kathmandu. We even thought of raising funds for the working class in our sector. But then no one wanted to stay in Kathmandu. Most of them dispersed for their native places. All were in their own villages. We thought about utilizing the 10 percent of the tims amount reserved for the worker’s benefit. But due to lack of written procedures or work task for the same, we are unable to look into it. Otherwise that would be a big relief.

What has TAAN done for it’s members during the Covid-19 pandemic ?
-Covid-19 has affected all the sectors. And it is clear that the tourism field is the most affected. In TAAN we have more than two thousand members. Soon after the pandemic hit Nepal and there was the imposing of the lockdown, we the central team has met the Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai many a times. Our delegation has made the Minister aware about the situation and suggested many ways in order to provide relief to our members. We have urged for 25 crore rupees as subsidised loan for the trekking sector. The interest rate is only 3.5 percent. The Minister has been positive towards our demand and has committed to support. In between this there have been increase in the bail amount upto 50 lakh for setting up of tourism business. The amounts are too high. But since the country has entered into the federal system, we think the Bagmati province should be more responsible towards the situation. Also because the largest number of tourism businesses have been registered in this province. And our expectation from the provincial government is the same. We have also reached up with the Province Tourism Minister Arun Nepal for the same. In our sector the guides play a major role and they are totally affected from the situation. So we focused on them and kept them in our priority. TAAN has done an understanding with the Machhapuchre Bank and issued credit cards. They can withdraw 15000 each month upto 180000 until they are in condition to return back. TAAN’s recommendation is a must for the same. Next we thought about our entrepreneurs affiliated with us. They would get 2 to 10 lakh each month as per their business and transaction. Here too the recommendation of TAAN is a must and it is a fascility given to our members. But as conditions improve they need to return back the amount. Incase of loan they need not panic about it and are released for two years if they cannot pay. This is mostly incase of hotels.
We have been not working as per our calendar because the whole course has changed. We have collected a lot of data during this period.

What does Tourism Minister Bhattarai say?
-Minister Yogesh Bhattarai is young and energetic. So far he has tried his best. 20 percent of the work has been done. He never says no, at least he tries his best. Sometimes the Ministers also become a bridge because other ministries are also interlinked and connected. When it is a coordination work, one person alone is not in a position to take direct decisions. But he is approachable. The budget has also increased.
We expect no double standards for arrivals at airport. Technology has reached it’s peak other than heath report there should be the fascility of Covid-19 test right at the airport. And once there is test fascility at the airport why not we give them the on arrival visa. Or at least the evisa should be allowed. And most important tourism should be acknowledged as an industry and not only as a business. Due to this reason we are weaned of many of the fascilities given by the government. And our premises Will also widen.

Entire tourism industry has been affected, which sector is the most hit within?
-Ofcourse the mountaineering and trekking was hit hard because March, April and May were the peak seasons. Tourism entrepreneurs long for the international tourists during this season. It is the season of the mountain tourism. This time that season itself was hit hard. Next were the hotels and vehicles, which were affected.

How do you get the strength to work during the calamity?
-You know we women have natural strength in us. We can keep calm even during the most unfavourable situations. The general secretary’s post is also that of a bridge. We need to coordinate with the president, members and other organizations. Our president has also mentioned about this. Had there been a male the situation would differ.So I say women are not weak but strong.

Have you been upset these days?
-Yes, many a times. Sometimes middle of the night also I would get up and think. During this pandemic everybody is upset. Our guides were angry about the credit cards. They thought it would not benefit them in the villages. But it worked and later they apologized with me. There is lot of expectation from leaders. One needs to continue the good work with patience even if there is negative atmosphere. If your thoughts are pure and you work hard, definitely one day the results will be good. If you stick to the work the results will be positive. After 15 days People will come back to you.

How you manage your family, office and organization ?
-(Laughing) yes being a woman I have to manage many things. These days I have been doing most of the work from home. I need not go to office just to sign some documents, so I ask for them home. But whatever the situation most of my time is for TAAN. I know it’s a crucial time and we should stand together. My child has grown now and my husband manages the office and other work. My parents are also supportive. Actually my family is taking care of me. The only thing is after being elected at TAAN I hardly have time for my friends. I personally think we should focus more on our responsibilities. More and more women should be encouraged in every sector and only then there will be proper management and no corruption. I have seen that the businesses run by women are very successful.