Brett Model, General Manager, Tiger Palace Resort, is heading the complete operations and management of the 102-room, 5-star integrated entertainment resort, Tiger Palace Resort in Nepal’s emerging destination, Bhairahawa, since 1st March 2018. Brett has an extensive work experience spanning over 16 years across different parts of the world. Having worked in China for over 10 years and opening the largest casino resort in Vietnam, Brett brings with him a plethora of hospitality experience. He has successfully lead hotel operations in Bhutan, Macau and United States of America as well.
In his current role at Tiger Palace Resort, Brett is working towards strengthening the resort’s positioning as an exhilarating, heart-stopping wholesome entertainment destination. In the last one year, Brett has strategically led the resort towards great success. The resort has managed to achieve great ARR, Rev Par and Occupancy. Brett talks about his experience, vision and the future plans for Tiger Palace Resort with Karobar National Economic Daily Reporter Manoranjan Sharma. The excerpts:
Why did Silver Heritage Group Choose Bhairahawa for Investment?
The primary reason for selecting Bhairahawa as the location for the resort was its proximity to the India-Nepal border. As there is a growing and relatively increasing demand from the Indian consumers for a premier entertainment destination. The resort is also well-placed near two UNESCO world-heritage sites – Lumbini, Birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Chitwan National Park. Also, in terms of connectivity, the Resort is just 15 minutes drive from the domestic Gautam Buddha Airport and is extremely well connected with the major metropolitan areas of Nepal and India, with a new 6-lane highway running alongside the resort’s entrance, due to be completed before the end of 2019. The Gautam Buddha Airport, which is funded by the ADB and OPEC Funds, is also in order to open international facilities in 2019. All these reasons put together make it a viable location for the Resort.
What is the total investment in Tiger Palace Resort till date and what facilities it provides?
The company’s initial investment for the first phase, till date, has been over 52 million US dollars. Tiger Palace Resort has been built on 50% of the total 22 acres land. We plan to add in more rooms and banquet facilities to our existing inventory in the second phase.
We have kept our focus on providing a holistic experience to our guests by offering world-class facilities. The resort features 100 tastefully well-appointed guest rooms, two VIP villas, the largest outdoor swimming-pool in Nepal, a premier casino spread over 2500 sqm., four separate food and beverage options, a spa & salon, fitness centre with steam and sauna facilities, ballroom and meetings rooms, children’s play area called Cub’s Kingdom along with an array of other recreational facilities.
How is the last year in term of business for Tiger Palace Resort?
In 2018 we had a few milestone months with June being one of the busiest months with highest occupancy, till date. The months of July and August were also good business months in terms of casino revenue, especially, during the Indian Independence-Day period. The year closed at a great note with 80% occupancy and strong gaming revenue. We had a great turn-out for the New Year’s Eve event with approx. 1500 guests attending the event.
What is present occupancy status?
For the month of December, we had 80% plus occupancy and average for the year (2018) was around 50% plus.
In 2018, we have organized eight destination weddings at resort. Till date, we have confirmed five weddings for 2019 and few on pipeline. Resort is an ideal destination for Leisure, MICE, Wedding, Family Holiday, Corporate Retreat & Entertainment. We have a strong Sales & Marketing team and do branding & promotion in Nepal as well as foreign countries. We regularly attend various travel & trade fair organized locally & internationally.
What is the demographics of guests visiting Tiger Palace Resort? Are they only Indian and Nepali?
The demographics of our guests are evenly split between Nepali and Indian citizens with the Casino guests being majorly from India. However, we are also catering to American, Chinese, Thai, Israeli and other South-Asian guests. We see the inflow of international guests from China, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, etc. increasing post the opening of the international terminal of the Gautam Buddha Airport.
Is there any discount for Nepalese at resort in rate, compared to foreigner?
I won’t say there is a discount, but we do have a different pricing plan for different nationalities as per the Nepalese industry standards. Airlines follow the same pricing strategy and you will find the same practice being followed by the hospitality groups in Nepal.
What’s the future plan for the Resort?
Our V.I.P gaming section in Casino is slated to open by end of this month. It will provide a high-end luxurious first-of-its-kind gaming experience in South Asia. In the near future, we are looking to increase the room inventory to 250 rooms utilizing the vacant land from the existing 18 bighas. We are also looking to expand our banqueting facilities and enhance the offerings at our signature pool-side restaurant, Cabana Avenue.
Tiger Palace Resort is focusing only In Casino Business or it offer other tourism packages too ?
Tiger Palace Resort’s owning company, Silver Heritage Group’s management team has a proven track record of identifying market opportunities and developing gaming operations especially in Nepal and Vietnam. The Group runs a casino in Kathmandu, Nepal and Bac Ninh, Vietnam and is expanding in the hospitality sector with Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa and another resort project underway in Jhapa Nepal. At Tiger Palace Resort, Casino is one of the features at the Resort. We cater to multiple travel segments such as FITs, MICE, Weddings, Socials and Group Stays. In 2018, seven weddings were organized at the Resort and this season we have already organized four weddings and few others are in booking.
What is the support from government and locals?
We share good relations with the local government and legal authorities. We are working closely with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal in developing tourism in Bhairahawa and Lumbini region. We interact closely with NTB, PATA and number of other eminent associations in Nepal.
How are the locals benefiting from this Resort?
We are the largest FDI investors in Nepal and our business endeavor is to contribute towards the growth of the tourism sector in Nepal. Hence, our growth and success are directly linked to the growth of the tourism industry in Nepal. About 95% of our staff is Nepalese, from near-by towns and villages. We have over 700 Nepalese team members (including skilled and non-skilled). Apart from developing new capabilities amongst the locals, the Resort has also positively impacted the economic growth of the local region. With the region’s infrastructural development, the land prices have increased up to six folds. The tourist’s inflows will also contribute towards the growth of local businesses.
Do you face any problem from locals while running Resort?
With the help of press and media we have been able to communicate our vision and endeavors with the locals. This has resulted in support from the local community. As mentioned, earlier we are fully committed towards the growth of the region and the country.
How do you see the opportunities at Bhairahawa?
As mentioned earlier, the development of the six-lane highway and the opening of the international terminal at Gautam Buddha Airport will give a major boost to the tourism sector in Bhairahawa and Lumbini. In terms of business development this area is booming with cement factories and brick manufacturing facilities. All of this bundled together will make Bhairahawa as one of the most important state of Nepal.
NTB and NATTA successfully organized first Buddhist international travel mart in Lumbini and this Resort. How this type of program help promote tourism?
BITM was a great platform to highlight and create a niche in tourism sector in Nepal. This was a great initiative to showcase the diverse tourism offering of Nepal with a product where Nepal has a comparative advantage over the other neighboring countries. It was a phenomenal opportunity for us and we are pleased & honored to be selected to host the delegates for this programe. I think that event proved an enriching experience for all the delegates travelling from all over the world. As that event delegates from over 25 countries were attended . I think that event boost the visibility and help establish Bhairahawa/Lumbini as the prominent tourist destination in Nepal. That event was inaugurated by the Mr. Rabindra Adhikari Cultural, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister, Nepal was hosted by the Nepal Tourism Board and coordinating by NATTA Nepal and other stockholder supported by different ways to made event successful.
Do you like to add anything?
With the objective of helping further tourism of Nepal, we have brought Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa, Lumbini. We are the largest foreign direct investment in Nepal in the tourism sector. It has created jobs locally and Government has gained revenue. Local markets will be blown up. The economic sector will increase. Therefore, such tourism industries are likely to cooperate with each other. It would like to say that everyone is good.