Travel

Salman, author, at Ghandruk

Ghandruk Limited

Ghandruk is an ethnic village located in the Annapurna region of Nepal. A village predominantly inhabited by the Gurung and Magar tribes of Nepal, is also an important tourist destination of the country.

I, with the team of 23 theater enthusiasts, went to visit a local theater at Pokhara and chose to spend a day wandering at Ghandruk. The 2 hours of delightful walk led us up to our lodge. We spent the next day sightseeing and taking pictures.

It connect the major roadways to many other important villages leading up to Annapurna Base Camp. Generally, people start trekking from Nayapul through Ghandruk, Chhomrong, Phedi and MBC to the Base Camp and back.

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Jomsom

Jomsom-Muktinath Limited

A trip lasting one week, I made it from Pokhara to Jomsom and Muktinath. Jomsom is a small town located in the Mustang region of Nepal. Due to its remote location, the region is discreet in nature. It is 67 km away from the tourist-city of Pokhara.


Pokhara – Jomsom

You can take a private/public vehicle to Jomsom, which may take around 10-11 hrs; or better you can take a flight to Jomsom which lasts hardly 30 mins. (Flights aren’t available for Nepalese or domestic tourists during travel season, unless they pay for the tourist reserved seats which are worth over $100)

Jomsom marks the beginning of the arid and dry landscape which reaches until Tibet in the north through Lo Manthang.


Jomsom – Muktinath

Muktinath is a small town located 21 km away from Jomsom. The place is mostly visited by the Hindu/Buddhist pilgrims throughout the year. Due to the huge influx of both domestic and foreign tourists, the place is well developed.

It’s a custom for the devotees to take a shower in the 108 stone-taps inside the Muktinath temple. The freezing water is believed to cleanse ones soul.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The former royal complex at the center of Bhaktapur district is known as the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It contains a palace, courtyards, historic monuments and numerous temples dedicated to various gods. The entire complex, along with Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

After Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur is the 2nd most visited tourist destination. It suffered a huge loss during the major earthquake of 2015.

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Exploring the Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath stands for “Lords of all animals.” The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva (One of the Hindu Trinity) and also known as the lord of animals. A stone bull in a crouching position marks the insignia of the temple.

It’s located at the heart of Kathmandu. The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectares of land including 518 temples and monuments. Due to its historical and social importance, the entire site was added in the UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979.

There isn’t certain date signifying the origin or creation of the temple. The earliest evidence of the temple dates back to 400 AD. The current temple was constructed or renewed in the 15th Century by the Lichhavi king of Kathmandu. Since, then many renovations have taken place; along with many temples, shrines built inside the premise.


How to Sell? 10 Tips for the Travel Agents in Nepal

A typical sales process is made of 4 basic elements;

  1. Finding the prospect (Potential Customer)
  2. Pitching the prospect
  3. Making a relationship
  4. Maintaining the relationship

Sales is the most rigorous and monotonous activity in a business, yet the most important of all. From finding the prospect (Marketing, Advertisement & Cold Calls) to making a relationship (Sign-ups and Bookings), everything is done with the purpose to bring in the sales and ROI.

The greater problem in Nepal’s tourism industry is, the most travel agents lack the basic idea of selling, hence, lower return in sales.

You shouldn’t mistake your customer’s receptivity for your sales skills but their own interest.

The average industry rate for online trip bookings is a mere 15%-20% of the total inquiries received.

The lower rate of conversion is a sign of major faults in the sales practice, however, out of thousands of travel agencies only handful of them ever realize this issue and care to improve it, mainly because, most agents do not come from sales background nor they worry about analyzing the conversion data to improve or update their sales skill.

The only effort in alluring the customers has been through cashing on those prospects who have already made up their mind or by offering heavily discounted deal (incentive) against other agencies’ offers. This results in discrepancy in the prices throughout the industry, which later hurts the travel agencies from falling prices and less ROI.

A Sad Fact is, nobody really cares about the data in this industry, unless you’re an analyst or researcher. Choosing to make the same mistake time and again and getting away with has been the norm.

6 Questions Travel Agents must Address

  • Why would a prospect leave my offer and go with someone else?
  • Why would a prospect never reply to my emails?
  • Have I been pitching my offer wrong the entire time?
  • Have I been treating the prospect wrong the entire time?
  • Why haven’t I been able to convert most of my email inquiries?
  • Do I lower the price to allure the customers or bring up the overall service?

As mentioned in my previous blog @State of Tourism in Nepal, travel agents refuse to look beyond the present market trends. The lack of vision/passion in finding new markets, trends or services will only render you obsolete in the future and prevent you from growing exponentially.


Here are 10 Basic Tips on Improving Sales Activity

  1. Know your Prospect -Prepare yourself before selling a product to your prospect. The art of selling relies on how well prepared you are to learn more about your customer’s needs, moreover, analyze their age, sex, culture, spending habit and other activities to determine a detailed profile. The better profiling helps you differentiate and serve the customers with certain tastes. (Same applies in marketing)
  2. Cover the Insights -You can only sell when you are familiar with your own product. Lack of insights is what irate the customers most. Insights of product comes from personal experiences, feedback or extensive research. Prepare and pitch the itinerary to let your customers feel that they are present at the destination, by evoking their emotions.
  3. Clarity & Patience – “The idea is not to sell on the first meeting.” A prospect contacts you when they are already interested but haven’t made up their mind. They need a fervent push before they can actually commit to pay. Those who have already made their mind will book instead. Therefore, understanding the need before initiating sales pitch may help to hold your prospects’ interest for a longer time. Don’t jump the gun!
  4. Beat the cliche -Stop copying others, be it their email formats or the way they converse. Prospects love to listen. They will listen to anyone who is willing to talk, however, they’ll always chose the one who stands out. These cliches account for the vicious circle of ill marketing. Most of the time, copying others may result in copying their faults too.
  5. Ask for feedback/reviews -Always ask for feedback before signing them up and after the end of the trip. In case of bad reviews, addressing them promptly helps in preventing the mistake from happening again, as well as, offer discounts or other incentives to the customer before they discourage others to use your service in the future. Precaution is better than cure!
  6. Offer incentive -Everyone looks for an incentive to commit for something. If your offer sounds less useful, they will choose to go with some other company who promises a better deal. A better deal isn’t always the discounted price but incentives, an incentive is defined by the overall trip experience (agency’s experience, guide’s experience/knowledge, better accommodation, customer services etc).
  7. Never misled or oversell -Most negative reviews arise when a sales agent oversells owns product or service, or mislead the customer in believing something that doesn’t exist. If you wish to avoid getting bad reviews in TripAdvisor and a position where you have to clarify your mistakes, then do start following ethical sales practices.
  8. Stick to the conversation medium -A prospect chooses a medium they are comfortable in. If a person chooses to email you, you do not call them up with your offer unless they allow you to. Similarly, if they chose to talk via Facebook or Twitter, you stick to that medium unless they fell necessary to switch it to any other mediums. They often feel reluctant to share their private information via online form for the harassing calls they may later receive from the marketers.
  9. Maintain a Brand“A brand never lies!” The sustenance of your agency relies completely on your brand image. The brand value grows when you are willing to accept the mistakes and change yourself. Hundreds of good reviews won’t rescue you when you may receive one bad review for your ill service. Make a point to invest in customer service, marketing mediums and ethical sales practices to grow the brand in the long run.
  10. Email Ethics & Prevalent Practices -Email is the ice-breaker. It helps to start a conversation. The idea is not to harass the reader. The email should be kept brief and to the point. The idea is to compel the reader to hit the reply button.As most sales take place online, sales agents make a grave mistake of taking email correspondence for granted, hence losing most of their customers before even getting to make an offer. (I’d be talking about Email ethics and practices in the detail in my next pulse)

A lengthy, poorly formatted and off-topic email often end up in Spam. Similarly, an email with grammatical errors and typos results in being :Unread or read incomplete.