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KUONI-SOTC starts operation

With the opening of its first store at Nagpokhari, Kathmandu, the Switzerland-based travel and destination management services company, KUONI-SOTC, has started its operation in Nepal.

Announcing their venture at a press meet, the company has revealed that they have partnered with EZ Travel, a local tour operator, to facilitate the vacations of Nepali travelers to foreign land. As per their statement, they are focusing on positioning themselves as a one-stop solution for providing customers with all of their holiday requirements.

A global holiday-maker that was established in 1906, the company takes care of booking holiday packages and also offers travelers discounts provided by KUONI-SOTC.

Agni Air to resume operations

The cash-strapped airline, Agni Air which was on the verge of closing down has announced that it would resume operation by the second week of March. Agni Air which has been grounded since November, 2012 after it failed to pay its outstanding dues to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), made the announcement on Sunday.

Sudhir Basnet, chairman of the airline, said the airline will be flying the sky by mid-March at a press conference in the valley. Agni Air, which owes a total of Rs 800 million, including Rs 650 million, payable to different commercial banks, has been leased to Shivam Investment. Other dues include salary of employees, fuel bills of Nepal Oil Corporation, and landing and parking fees of CAAN.

As per the agreement, Shivam Investment will pay Rs 680 million to the promoters for the lease period.

Agni Air which was among the top three carriers till 2011 saw its market share dwindle from the beginning of 2012. According to Basnet, the airline was facing loss of Rs 60 million every three months.

Before the signing of the lease contract with Shivam Investment, promoted by a group of pilots, Agni Air had initially planned to sell its entire property, including aircraft, at Rs 1 billion, which did not materialize.  “As we are not in a position to operate the airline, we felt leasing out would be the best option,” Basnet was quoted as saying.

The airline presently has five aircraft -- three 29-seater Jetstream 41s and two 19-seater Dorniers. However, except for one Dornier all other aircraft are in need of maintenance. “Shivam Investment has already started repairing the aircraft,” he added.

The airline in its hey days was operating flights to eight destinations, including mountain flights.

Drop in hotel room bookings for March

All the five star hotels in the country have reported a drop in the bookings for the month of March as compared to last year, when growth in bookings for rooms had been reported by almost all the hotels.  A ten percent drop in the bookings for March this year has been reported by hotels.

According to the hoteliers, the decrease has been caused by low bookings from European countries, who normally visit the country during March, which is seen as the beginning of season for trekking, rafting and other activities. Also, bookings from Indian and Japanese visitors have seen an immense fall.

Radisson Hotel Kathmandu, one of the most renowned hotels in the capital said that their bookings for March was around 60 percent, which is much lower compared to the same month last year. However, the officials are positive about last minute bookings. Same is the case with Hotel Yak and Yeti whose bookings now stand at 55 percent. Occupancy was better in February, informs hotel officials which was driven by the increased movement of Chinese tourists. Gokarna Forest Resort, another five star hotel echoes the same words. “The occupancy in February was also less compared to February, last year,” said Rojin Shakya, Business development manager at the resort.

European tourists are the major occupants of five star hotels in March season but this year, bookings from this group has declined. Also, the hoteliers inform that there have been no enquiries from corporate clients and MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) section for the month of March.

Simrik Airlines launched commercially

On Sunday, Simrik Airlines announced its commercial launch amidst a program organized in the valley. Simrik Airline, established in 2001, and a well known rotor wing airline launched its commercial operation with a mountain flight on February 10.  On February 13, the airlines scheduled flight to Pokhara. The airline is currently operating a fleet of 19-seater Beechcraft.

The airline also announced its plans to start scheduled flights to Simata and Bhairahawa at the function. Rameshwar Thapa, executive chairman of Simrik Airlines talked about the plans at the program and added, “We will be operating flights as per international safety standard.” The airline which was operating three choppers earlier had purchased cash-strapped Guna Airlines for Rs 350 million last month.

Speaking at the program, Sushil Ghimire, secretary at Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, reminded the private operators of their social responsibility. He said that the private airlines are only focused on earning profit and that they have neglected rural destinations which shouldn’t be the case.

At present, Simrik Airlines is operating four mountain flights and three flights to Pokhara on a daily basis. The airline is soon planning to start two flights a day to Simara and one daily flight to Bhairahawa.

Far-Western Tourism Fair begins

The first ever Far-Western Regional Tourism Fair kicked off with much fan fare at Dhangadi on Friday. Organized by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) with an objective to identify and promote tourist destinations in the region, the fair was inaugurated by Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, Post Bahadur Bogati. At the inaugural ceremony, Bogati admitted that the government had failed to exploit tourism potential of the region to the fullest and also spoke about the many attractive features of the far-western region that could bring in tourists. The minister also expressed his commitment to bring different programs that would initiate development in the region. The three day event is being participated by all the nine districts of the region. Stalls have been set up by each respective region to showcase their historical, religious and cultural attractions with the aim to provide necessary information. Altogether there are 30 stalls displaying the cultural and natural beauties of the region. Home stay tourism is one of the unique concepts that the fair is promoting. Some of the popular tourist destinations of the far-western region include Khaptad National Park, Api and Saipal mountains, Ghodaghodi Lake, and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.

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