The government is gearing up to celebrate 2020 as Visit Nepal Year. Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) is a major gateway for international tourists visiting Nepal. Management of TIA is crucial since the first impression is the last impression. Raj Kumar Chhetri, General Manager at TIA is working to give the airport a facelift. Khabarhub caught up with Chhetri. Excerpts:
There are a lot of complaints on the poor state of things at TIA. How are you dealing with those?
I am in the aviation sector for the past 30 years. Thus, I am familiar with the problems facing TIA. When we talk about international airports, we have an image of huge and sophisticated airports in developed countries. We do not have an adequate budget to develop huge infrastructures. Yet, I am trying my best by managing the resources we have.
Given the limited budget, I am working on a way to draw the attention of the tourists in a different manner. I am emphasizing on our unique culture and tradition.
TIA toilets used to be stinky, we made them neat and clean. Also in the past, passengers were disappointed in the lack of drinking water and adequate sitting facilities. Those problems exist no more.
I am also working to install air conditioners in the domestic and international lounge of the airport. Alongside, construction works are on to scale up the TIA infrastructure.
What have you done at the airport as part of welcoming foreign tourists?
Given the limited budget, I am working on a way to draw the attention of the tourists in a different manner. I am emphasizing on our unique culture and tradition. I have designed and decorated the airport the way we welcome guests as per our tradition. This has enchanted visitors.
We have used copper pitchers full of water with flowers on the tops. Walls are decorated with pictures that resemble our culture and tradition. We have also placed a statue of Garuda to welcome tourists. It is in fact, loved by many and people take a selfie with the statue. All these have come at the cost of mere Rs. 5,00,000. These small things have remained impressive to international tourists since these are new sights to them, uncommon at sophisticated airports.
What about the parking problem?
Parking is not a big issue as was in the past. Previously, it was messy. Even pick picketers roamed freely at the mismanaged parking lot. Taxi drivers forced passengers into their vehicles, dragging them. The situation now is different. Yes, the parking lot is a bit distant from the airport. However, you have trolleys to carry your goods from the well-managed parking lot up to the airport.
We are also starting pick and drop service soon so that passengers are directly led to the parking area from the plane.
You once talked of a boutique airport. What does that mean?
By a boutique airport, I mean a modern airport reflecting original traditional and cultural traits. We are been working on it. As part of a short term plan, we are housing a one-horn rhino at the airport within two weeks. That shall give it a distinct look for the tourists. Besides, the airport also has long term projects in developing its infrastructure.
There have been reports of disrupted flights due to cracks on the runway during monsoon? How are you dealing with the problem?
Problem with the runway is true. Now, we are repairing the runway with new materials. This work will be over in three months. We are also working on the taxiway. The airport is getting rid of this problem, soon.
Is TIA becoming a transit point for criminals as rumored?
I cannot tell you what transpired at TIA before my tenure. But after I assumed the position, crime-related activities here have come down by 80 percent. We are serious about the security issue. We hold security meeting once a month that is attended by officers from the revenue office, terminal office; and the police and army. We are frequently updated on the security situation here.