1on1 With Jhalak Raj Chaudhary: Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge

Exclusive 1on1 with Jhalak Raj Chaudhary (JC), Manager Operations and Guest Relations, and Dol Raj Shrestha (DRS), Manager Dining and Rooms, at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge.

 

 

What is your favourite Tiger Mountain memory? 

 

JC – VISIT OF HRH PRINCESS ANNE AND LEARNING ABOUT ‘SAVE THE CHILDREN FUND’.

DRS – THE OPENING OF THE LODGE BY SIR EDMUND HILLARY IN OCTOBER 1998 WITH A HOST OF TOURISM ICONS IN NEPAL THEN SEEING HOW THE LODGE HAS EVOLVED DOWN THE YEARS SINCE THEN, TO BE ONE OF THE TOP PROPERTIES IN NEPAL AND A LEADER IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM.

 

Describe Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge as a brand in 3 words

 

JC – RESPONSIBLE CONSERVATION TOURISM – THIS IS OUR CORE ETHOS AND SUMS UP WHAT WE DO – RESPONSIBILITY FOR BEING SUSTAINABLE (PEOPLE, PLANET, PROFIT), CONSERVATION OF THE LODGE ENVIRONMENT, ECO-RESEARCH PROJECTS AND AWARENESS IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY, TOP QUALITY TOURISM WITH AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES FOR OUR GUESTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WITH AWARENESS OF SUSTAINABILITY FOR GUESTS AND STAFF ALIKE.

DRS – ATTHITI DEVA BHAVA – A SANSKRIT SAYING THAT ‘GUESTS ARE GODS.’ I ALWAYS WORK TO ENSURE THE GUESTS AT THE LODGE ARE TREATED WITH THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF GENUINE HOSPITALITY THAT HAS A RICH TRADITION IN NEPAL WHERE WE ALWAYS WANT TO CARE FOR A VISITOR, BE THEY TOURISTS OR OUR FRIENDS VISITING OUR HOMES.

What made you decide to be a in the hospitality industry?

 

JC – TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF MEETING FOREIGNERS TO SPEAK FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND EXPERIENCE DIFFERENT CULTURES. AS A CHILD I SAW MANY FOREIGNERS ARRIVING AT MEGHAULI AIRPORT TO VISIT THE FAMOUS TIGER TOPS (ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF TIGER MOUNTAIN) AND WAS ALWAYS FACINATED BY THESE CURIOUS VISITORS TO MY VILLAGE.

DRS – IT WAS A CHANCE OPPORTUNITY RESULTING FROM MY BROTHER WORKING AT TIGER TOPS JUNGLE LODGE, THE ICON OF NEPAL’S WILDLIFE TOURISM IN THE 1970S AND 80S. HE SUGGESTED I JOIN TIGER MOUNTAIN AND HELP WITH THE CONSTRUCTION WORK FOR THIS EXCITING NEW PROJECT OUTSIDE POKHARA. I WENT AND, ALTHOUGH THE WORK WAS HARD, PERSEVERED AND WAS OFFERED A JOB TO BE PART OF THE ORIGINAL STAFF TEAM AT THE LODGE, NOW I AM PART OF THE KEY MANAGEMENT TEAM AT THE LODGE.

 

 

What values do TMPL embrace and how do you showcase these values so guests truly feel them? 

JC – INTEGRITY AND AUTHENTICITY – OFFERING DIFFERENT BUT ALWAYS GENUINE EXPERIENCES FROM OTHER HOTELS THAT ARE UNIQUE AND FOCUSSED ON WILDLIFE AND CONSERVATION – I LOVE TAKING GUESTS OUT ON NATURE WALKS TO SHOW HOW WE CARE FOR THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AT TMPL. I HOPE THAT THE QUIET ENTHUSIASM OF ALL THE STAFF FOR WHATWE DO AND HOW WE DO IT COMES ACROSS TO OUR GUESTS. CERTAINLY THE FEEDBACK OF OUR GUESTS WOULD IMPLY THAT IT DOES. WE ALSO HAVE TWO INDEPENDENT AUDITS OF OUR RESPONSIBLE TOURISM ACTIVITIES TO ENSURE WE ARE ACTUALLY ACHIEVING WHAT WE SET OUT TO DO.

DRS – AUTHENTIC HOSPITALITY – I TRY TO REMEMBER ALL OUR GUESTS’ NAMES AND FACES TO WELCOME THEM BACK AS RETURNING FRIENDS. WE HAVE MANY REPEAT GUESTS COME TO THE LODGE. I ALSO TRAIN MY FELLOW STAFF TO OFFER GENUINE AND WARM HOSPITALITY TO OUR GUESTS BOTH BY EXAMPLE AND BY SPECIFIC ROLE PLAY AND OTHER TRAINING TECHNIQUES ALTHOUGH I AM HAPPY THAT HOSPITALITY COMES NATURALLY IN NEPAL FOR NEPALIS.

People come to Nepal to experience the local culture. What measures do you take to ensure an authentic Nepalese experience? 

 

JC – WE HAVE NO PRE-PLANNED CULTURAL SHOWS OR SMS MESSAGES TO VILLAGERS TELLING THEM TO HIDE THE IPHONE, PUT ON TRADITIONAL CLOTHES, ETC – OUR GUESTS SEE THE COMMUNITY ON WALKS AS IT IS THAT VERY MOMENT. WE DO NOT DO SET PIECE SHOWS OR EVENTS, BUT JUST ENSURE ALL THE GUIDES AND STAFF ARE THEMSELVES, NATURAL AND NORMAL, LIVING OUT THEIR LIVES AND SHARING THEM WITH OUR GUESTS. WE HAVE NO PREPARED SCRIPTS TO WELCOME GUESTS OR INFORM THEM ON ANY MATTER – WE ARE JUST HOW WE ARE.

DRS – I ALWAYS ENCOURAGE LALU, OUR HEAD COOK, TO COOK AUTHENTIC NEPALI FOOD JUST AS WE WOULD EAT AT HOME, USING THE SAME MATERIALS, SPICES AND PROCESSES.

 

What’s your favorite part of the hotel?

 

JC – I LOVE THE INFINITY SWIMMING POOL WITH ITS AMAZING REFLECTIONS OF THE MOUNTAINS THAT ARE EVER CHANGING. OURS WAS ONLY THE SECOND IN POKHARA AND NO OTHER COMPARES WITH OUR VIEW. GUESTS LOVE BOTH THE POOL ITSELF AND JUST RELAXING THERE, EVEN WHEN THE WATER IS COOLER.

DRS – FOR ME IT IS THE DINING HALL WHEN FULL OF HAPPY GUESTS AND SEEING OUR STEWARDS SERVING A FULL MEAL WITH CHARM AND EFFICIENCY. WE HAVE HOSTED FORMAL DINNERS FOR 50 GUESTS WITH TOP VIPS AND AT OTHER TIMES IT MAY BE JUST A DINNER FOR TWO BY THE POOL TO CELEBRATE A SPECIAL OCCASION. ENSURING THAT EACH AND EVERY OCCASION IS FUN AND MEMORABLE GIVES ME GREAT PLEASURE.

 

What makes the Tiger Mountain experience so special? 

 

JC – I BELIEVE IT IS OUR PERSONAL AND SINCERE RESPONSE TO EVERY GUEST – WE DO NOT SEE GUESTS NUMBERS OF “PAX” AS USED IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY, OR AS CLIENTS; WE SEE INDIVIDUAL GUESTS, REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL STORIES AND EXPERIENCES. I MEET ALMOST EVERY GUEST ON ARRIVAL TO INTRODUCE THE LODGE AND ITS FACILITIES – I DO NOT HAVE A PREPARED SCRIPT BUT HAVE A NATURAL CONVERSATION WITH THE GUEST, COVERING THE POINTS AND SHARING THE RANGE OF OPTIONS FOR GUESTS WHILE STAYING. EVERY EVENING AND MORNING I CATCH UP WITH THE GUESTS TO DISCUSS WHAT THEY WANT TO DO THAT DAY / THE FOLLOWING DAY. EVEN TOUR GROUPS ARE NOT TREATED AS A SINGLE GROUP ENTITY, BUT AS INDIVIDUALS WO CAN EACH DO THEIR OWN THING. I THINK TMPL IS UNIQUE IN HAVING THIS VERY HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR GUESTS. THE KINDNESS AND INVOLVEMENT OF THE STAFF IS ONE OF THE MOST REGULAR COMMENTS ON TRIPADVISOR AND IN OUR VISITORS BOOK.

DRS – THE LOCATION OF THE LODGE IS SPECIAL AND DRAMATIC – DUE TO THE AMAZING MOUNTAIN PANORAMA – BUT THERE IS A SPECIAL SENSE OF PEACE AND TRANQUILLITY AROUND THE LODGE GROUNDS THAT IS ALSO VERY MAGICAL – MANY GUESTS COMMENT ON THE PEACEFULNESS AND CALMNESS OF THE PLACE.

 

What does Tiger Mountain as a company do to support sustainability in Pokhara?

 

JC – OUR CONCEPT OF RESPOSNIBLE CONSERVATION TOURISM COVERS THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, THE LOCAL COMMUNITY, OUR STAFF, OUR GUESTS AND OUR WIDER STAKEHOLDERS (LOCAL AND CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, AGENTS, DMCs, TOUR OPERATORS, ETC.). WE AIM TO ENSURE SUSTAINABILITY IN ALL AREAS. INEVITABLY WE ARE BETTER IN SOME THAN OTHERS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN RECENT YEARS, LONG POWER CUTS FORCED US TO RUN A GENERATOR AND THIS INCREASED OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. THIS, THANKFULLY IS NOW REDUCED. WE CONDUCT ANNUAL AND MONTHLY SURVEYS OF WATERFOWL, OTHER BIRDS, BUTTERLFIES, ETC. AS AN ONGOING BIO-DIVERSITY MONITORING PROGRAMME. WE ALSO PROVIDE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY FORESTRY COMMITTEE TO HELP THEM TO CONSERVE THE FOREST AREAS IN THE VILLAGE. WE HAVE A COMMUNITY SUPPORT PARNTERSHIP PROGRAMME THAT ASSISTS IN REALISING THE VILLAGE’S OWN ASPRIATIONS TO DEVELOP THE AREA – WE HAVE SUPPORTED THE LOCAL SCHOOLS AND CONTINUE TO DO SO, BUT ARE CAREFUL ALWAYS TO ENSURE THAT IT IS THE COMMUNITY’S PROGRAMME, NOT OURS. WE DO NOT WANT THE TAIL TO WAG THE DOG! WORKING WITH AWARD-WINNING VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT AGENCY, PEOPLE AND PLACES UK, WE HAVE A PROGRAMME OF VISITING TEACHERS WHO PARTNER WITH TEACHERS IN THE LOCAL SCHOOLS TO SUPPORT THEIR ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS AND TO DEVELOP ABILITIES AT MORE MODERN STYLES OF TEACHING.

DRS – CONTINUING FROM JHALAK’S REMARKS, WE ENSURE ALL OUR STAFF ARE WELL CARED FOR BOTH FINANCIALLY AND SOCIALLY WITH TOP LEVEL PACKAGES AND PLENTY OF SUPPORT SHOULD ANYONE BE FACING DIFFICULTIES. WE ARE LIKE A BIG SHARING FAMILY IN THIS RESPECT. FOR OUR GUESTS, WE ALWAYS WANT TO SHARE OUR EXPERIENCES AND ‘WHY WE DO THINGS THE WAY WE DO’ SO THAT THEY CAN TAKE HOME CONCEPTS AND IDEAS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY THAT MAYBE IMPELEMENTED AND SHARED WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS TOO. WE SHARE WHAT WE DO WITH OFFICIALS FROM TOURISM ORGANISATIONS LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, REGULARLY HAVING VISITORS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES COMING TO SHARE OUR EXPERIENCE AND IDEAS TO SEE HOW THEY MIGHT BE APPLICABLE IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES. WHEN JOINING SECRET RETREATS, AN ASSOCIATION OF SMALL LODGES LIKE TIGER MOUNTAIN, WE MADE IT A CONDITION OF JOINING THAT THEY SHOULD EMBRACE RESPONSIBLE TOURISM PRACTICES AND NOW WE ARE THEIR CO-LEADER IN THIS ASPECT OF THE ASSOCIATION. IN THIS WAY WE AIM TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT BEING MORE SUSTAINABLE AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS AN INDUSTRY.