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NRI from Bangkok opens five-star hotel in Nepal

Kathmandu, Aug 3

Discounting the current political turmoil in Nepal, the nine-year-old insurgency and declining tourists, a billionaire non-resident Indian heading an international chain of resorts and deluxe hotels worldwide has opened a new five-star hotel in the kingdom.

Headed by Bangkok-based NRI Prem Sachdev, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts has opened its first resort hotel in Nepal, Le Méridien Kathmandu, Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa.

Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, which has 137 properties in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, gained a foothold in Nepal three years ago when it started the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort in the lush Gokarna forest, about 10 km from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, traditionally the private hunting ground of the royal family.

With its scenic golf course becoming the venue of national and international tournaments and its Harmony Spa becoming popular among the local upmarket clientele as well as expatriates, the owners decided to add a five-star deluxe hotel to the 780 acre resort.

In June this year, the hotel with 38 deluxe rooms and a period suite inspired by the historic Malla and Rana periods began operations. The Meridien seal was put on the project from July 1 when the management of the chain also took over the management in Nepal.

This year, Le Meridien plans to add another 30 rooms, said its acting general manager, Patanjali Sharma.

With Le Meridien entering the hospitality industry in Nepal, the kingdom now has seven five-star hotels. Till last year, there were five - Soaltee Crowne Plaza, the first luxury hotel in Nepal, Yak and Yeti, Hotel de l'Annapurna, Radisson and Hyatt Regency.

However, this year, a four-star hotel, Shangri La, reportedly got upgraded and recognised as a five-star.

Except Shangri La, all the others have a casino on the premises to boost visitors, especially Indian tourists.

But Le Meriden, Sharma said, would not run a casino. "We have a different character," he said. "Our clientele is the upmarket local and expatriate community who come here for the golf and spa."

While the other hotels have to offer facilities to stave off competition and fill up their 300-odd rooms, Le Meriden, with its planned 69 rooms would be self-sufficient, deriving sustenance from the local market, Sharma added.

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