I’ve always belie
ved if you find a niche you can make it happen. Unfortunately I personally have not found this ‘niche,’ but if you look around you today in Nepal you will see many examples of those who have, particularly as tourism became more commercialized during the 1980s and 1990s.
As a young child my friends and I had the usual (for North America where my family briefly migrated to) lemonade stall. Selling refreshments mainly to family and neighbors. I was unaware as to how successful that selling of lemonade could be… In 1927 John Willard Marriott and his wife opened a root beer stand in Washington DC with the belief that city dwellers needed a place offering cool drinks. From that root beer stand via a chain of restaurants, Marriott opened his first hotel, the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel, in Arlington, Virginia in 1957. The rest, as they say, is history.
Skip forward 60 years (and over a lot of acquisitions and restructuring) and the first Marriott Hotel appeared in Kathmandu in the form of Fairfield by Marriott; situated in Keshar Mahal Marg (between the Gardens of Dreams and Himalayan Java). Today, October 2019, Marriott has three properties in Kathmandu: Fairfield, Marriott Kathmandu, and Aloft Kathmandu Thamel.
In total there are 30 Marriott brands with over 7,000 properties. So far Kathmandu has three, but I am reliably informed we will be seeing another five Marriott hotels coming up in Nepal in the next three or four years.
I must admit I am quite surprised when I look at the list of Marriott hotels, many of which I have, if not overnighted in, at least had a drink in around the world. Some of you reading this may remember that during the 2000s Gokarna Forest Resort was a Le Meridian Hotel. Le Meridian was part of the Starwood Group which was bought by Marriott in 2015. This major acquisition put Marriott firmly into the non-USA market.
Which brings us back to Kathmandu today.
Marriott in Kathmandu
With three Marriott hotels already established in Kathmandu, and two up and coming I’m interested why they feel the need for five hotels in this small city.
I discover that, according to Sourabh Singh Bhadauria, Account Director of Sales & Marketing at the Fairfield, Marriott’s business development team researches three or four years ahead of time before commitment is made to create a new hotel. This is explained further by Vikram Singh, GM at Aloft. “Around 2010 the tourism market was good, particularly from China and India which were undergoing great growth. There was an explosion of hotels, and Kathmandu was no exception. And yes, it takes time to do the research, sign contracts and build properties.” With Asia being the current ‘go to’ holiday destination, hoteliers also turned their focus this way, and today’s traveller has higher expectations than in the past, looking for comfort as well as value for money. “Kathmandu is logistically and geographically well-placed. There is ease of access for tourists (ie visas are easy) and the people are friendly. Nepal presented a positive outlook to the
Marriot research team,” Singh explained
I’m told that there were only two Marriott hotels planned for Kathmandu, the Marriott Kathmandu and the Fairfield by Marriott. These hotels are managed by the Marriott group. Aloft is in fact a franchise and fell under the Starwood Group until its takeover in 2015. The up and coming Sheraton (being built on the corner of Kantipath, near the old Green Line bus park) was also a Starwood. Hence, Kathmandu gained four, instead of the original two, Marriotts.
And we are soon to gain more. Moxy, luxury accommodation with a friendly hostel vibe for the young at heart, will be breaking ground soon in the middle of town. A hotel in their Luxury Collection category is already under construction in Nagarkot. Featuring sheer luxury villas and spa facilities, combined with the right location, this could be a game changer for this hill station.
Let’s take a closer look at the properties currently open in Kathmandu.
Fairfield by Marriott
The first Marriott to open, situated two minutes walk from the Gardens of Dreams, is the perfect location and hotel for tour groups. The hotel and guest rooms are decorated in warm colours to reflect the energy of Thamel.
The Kava all-day dining restaurant offers a buffet station and a la carte menu focusing on Indian and continental food. There is a semi-outside dining area in which I have seen family gatherings and children’s birthday parties being held. Nearby is the Kava Bar, a small area providing coffee, cocktails and spirits.
There is a small gym for those who feel they need to keep their fitness level up after spending days on their trek, and a small meeting room which holds around 40.
Opinion: Perfect location and guest room facilities for groups or individuals geared to sightseeing. I’m told that corporate clients are among their in-house guests. Certainly it’s also perfect after a long day of meetings. I love their restaurant as it provides a comfortable setting for casual gatherings at affordable prices.
Guest Room Details
115 guest rooms: 71 deluxe king bedrooms, 43 deluxe twin bedrooms, 1 accessible king bed room.
Each room features: a 40 inch LED TV, electronic safe, high speed internet, mini fridge, tea/ coffee maker, iron and ironing board, individual climate control and the usual high quality linens, bottled water etc.
Opinion: The rooms are on the small side, yet very comfortable with modern bathrooms and all the usual facilities that you need after a day of sightseeing or business meetings.
Aloft Kathmandu Thamel
Different. By Design. is their slogan, and its true! Situated at the Chhaya Devi Centre in Thamel (on the same road as the House of Music) they have a great location and views of the surrounding hills and Swambhunath. Interesting fact: this is the first hotel in Nepal to be linked with a shopping mall.
Having opened in July this year, and with their Nilgiri Sky Lounge only due to open in November, so far this hotel has struck a positive note around town. You can feel the difference as soon as you walk into their 5th floor lobby area. Gone is the standard checkin counter, it’s been replaced by a round desk situated between the Re:fuel by Aloft (grab and go eatery) and the Re:mix Lounge and WXYZ bar. Gone too are the stuffy staff uniforms: they now wear jeans. Colours are vibrant in keeping with Aloft around the world. With their target clients the ‘next gen’ of techie types, the bar and lounge area reflects this younger mindset. A pool table is just one feature of this area. As is the soon to come on stream Live at
Aloft stage featuring local musicians.
On the same level is the Nook all day dining restaurant. Creative and contemporary, the style is simple and the executive chef obliging and on hand to advise on their continental and Indian menu.
Moving up, the Splash swimming pool on the 14th floor has stunning views of the hills. An infinity pool, this is an indoor pool with full height and length glass panels putting the ‘infinity’ into ‘pool.’ The seating around the pool is in keeping with the overall relaxed and young décor of the hotel – brightly coloured, comfortable huge lounging sofas. Casual eats and drinks are available at the Akua poolside bar. As of writing, it is unsure whether the pool and (quite well equipped) gym overlooking the pool will be available for non-hotel guests outside of special offers.
I’m excited about the Niligiri Sky Lounge (opening in November) which should give spectacular views of the city below. And with its focus on inspiring a cocktail culture in Kathmandu, this will be a much sought after place! The lounge will be combined with the Backyard, an outdoor seating area. And some might be interested to know there is a casino on its way soon, too.
Aloft has three function rooms for conferences, seminars or weddings. Ranging from a capacity from around 30 to over 500 guests these are worth looking at if you have an event coming up.
Opinion: Love the décor colours and now that I understand the concept behind the focus of the hotel, quite like the overall idea which is, according to the GM, “casual but 5 star with a Nepali soul.” The swimming pool area has a distinct outside feel without actually being outdoors which I think will appeal greatly to children and young people. Await the sky lounge for the final verdict!
Guest Room Details
167 guest rooms: 103 Loft King Rooms, 49 Loft Twin Rooms, 2 Accessible Rooms, 7 Savvy Suites, 6 Breezy Suites
Each room features: platform beds, LED TV, electronic safe, high speed internet, mini fridge, tea/coffee maker, iron and ironing board, individual climate control and the usual high quality linens, bottled water etc, plus rainwater showers in the modern bathrooms which have the usual facilities. Interesting fact: Aloft works with Soap for Hope, an organisation that collects leftover soap for recycling.
Opinion: The rooms are of a good size, the suites are very spacious. Plenty of room to avail of the ‘fastest in Kathmandu’ Wi-Fi if guests choose to work in-room.
Squeezed into a tight corner at Nag Pokhari, this 5 star deluxe hotel definitely defies its dour exterior appearance. I have to admit to being a regular for their coffee and donuts by the Kathmandu Baking Company, their in-house patisserie.
The ground floor consists of a spacious lobby lounge decorated in such a way that you know you are in the Kathmandu Valley the moment you walk in and overlooking a courtyard, aptly named Naxal Square. Also on the ground floor is the Kathmandu Baking Co grab and go station, or a sit and relax space (depending on your need), and the Thamel Kitchen, the latter being an interactive kitchen and all day dining. Multi-cuisine is on offer either a la carte or from regularly featured buffets.
Another dining experience is the Edamame which features modern Asian cuisine and live yakitori. The design and decoration of this restaurant reflects modern Asia, as do the prices.
If you are in need of a drink to recover, the Raksi Music Bar might just hit the spot. Entering either from the courtyard and climbing up the stairs, or by the main lift, the Raksi offers the usual high quality drinks in a smart yet comfortable setting. There is outside terrace seating which features exquisite and discrete waterfalls and may host a DJ when you drop by. You’ll find live music on Friday nights and there’s currently a ladies’ cocktail deal every Wednesday night. Which, trust me, is worth exploring!
The outdoor infinity pool and smaller children’s pool featuring water-spouting stone lions provides a relaxing fitness experience while the large and well-equipped gym is available for those who want to put a bit more effort in. Luckily for us who live nearby, the gym and pool are open for membership. Again, a bit pricey, but the luxury facilities, feel and overall setting might just be enticement enough.
And if you happen to meet the love of your life over a cocktail at the bar or in the gym, Marriott Kathmandu has the wedding planning sorted! 'Shaadi by Marriott' can manage the whole affair for you. Naturally their function rooms live up to the high wedding expectations of Nepal. With six function rooms, there are facilities for the largest wedding to the smallest seminar and everything in between.
There is also a deluxe spa (by appointment) to pamper us. And a casino to win back some of our cash!
Opinion: My go-to for a quiet coffee, business meeting, or friends gathering. Says it all really! Great place for corporate clients/guests who don’t want to be located in the heart of Thamel or don’t want to deal with the traffic by being in a similar quality hotel on the edge of the city.
Guest Room Details
214 guest rooms: 34 Deluxe King & Twin, 34 Club King & Twin, 49 Junior Suite King Rooms, 69 Executive Suite King Rooms (with special M Club Lounge exclusivity), 1 Presidential Suite, 3 Accessible Rooms and 24 hour check-in.
Each room features: LED TV, electronic safe, high speed internet, mini fridge, tea/coffee maker, iron and ironing board, individual climate control and the usual high quality linens, pillow menu, bottled water etc. Spacious bathrooms with the usual utilities.
Opinion: Rooms are spacious and what you would expect from a 5 star. The views are less spectacular perhaps, but then why not spend more time in the pool or bar?
Commitment to Nepal: Loyalty to Guests
Having explored the hotels I find that I would be very happy to stay in any of them if I was visiting the city. But still I want to know, will these three current properties and the upcoming ones be sustainable? Both Bhadauria and Singh think they will be. “With the Marriott brand comes trust,” I am told by Bhadauria. “Aside from each hotel targeting a different clientele, and despite a new airport being built in Pokhara, the future looks good. Tourists will always come to the country in which Mt. Everest is situated, and will continue to visit Kathmandu,” Singh said. And even if they don’t, Marriott has that covered with two hotels on the cards for Pokhara in the future!
To sum up, Marriott is committed not only to Kathmandu but to Nepal. And committed to providing great service to existing and new guests from around the world. In return those guests can get access to room night points and great deals with the Marriott’s BonVoy loyalty system. It certainly seems the Marriott experience is here to stay!
Contact: All the Kathmandu Marriott hotels can be found via https://www.marriott.com or check FaceBook for the local contact phone numbers.
Photo: Pramod Neupane-WWF Nepal From red pandas swaying on branches in the eastern Himalayas...