Professionalising Bhutanese Tour Guides

Email

When tourists arrive in Bhutan, the first thing they see is not the pristine mountains or the serene environment. They see the guides.

Highly rated DrukAsia guides take selfies with tourists. (Source: https://www.drukasia.com/bhutan-guide/phub-tshering/)

 

Bhutan has come a long way since it opened its doors to tourism in 1974. Until 1998, the sector functioned under the government. Tour operator and guides were government employees.

Today, the tourism industry has become the second largest revenue contributor in the country. Last year, 62,733 international tourists visited Bhutan, which translates to a total revenue of Nu 4.719 billion.

Tourists require experienced guides to help them navigate the country

When tourists arrive in Bhutan, the first thing they see is not the pristine mountains or the serene environment. They see the guides. Exploring a country through books is not enough as landmarks, signage and tracks change constantly. Tourists require experienced guides to help them navigate the country. Currently, there are over 1,000 licensed and active tour guides in the country.

Recognising the important role that tour guides play, the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) was founded in February 27, 2009. It was officially registered with the Civil Society Organisation Authority in June 2010.

GAB started with 67 members. The organisation has now grown, with over 500 members.

Aims of the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB)

As tour guides are the ‘eyes’ through which tourists see Bhutan, GAB aims to create a platform for guides to voice their concerns and to attain the highest degree of professionalism.

The founder and chairman of GAB, Garab Dorji, said that with the ‘High Value, Low Impact’ tourism strategy of Bhutan, such a platform for guides is necessary.  “We go all over Bhutan, talk to people and we come from all over Bhutan to handle one of the most delicate businesses, human beings.”

He said that with the organisation, it is easier for the guides to voice their concerns and to train them. “If you want to file a case, it is much easier for the guide to talk through the association.”

For the welfare of the guides, GAB aims to upgrade its training. It does not, however, mean that GAB will train new guides as it will go against the interest of GAB. “GAB is there to protect the livelihood of guides, not to produce more guides. Once the guides are trained and become part of us, we upscale their training so that they become more professional.”

Garab Dorji said that if there are more guides, it would be difficult for them to find jobs and that affects the professionalism of the guides.

Even if the non-members have issues, they can approach GAB for help. “We mediate, support and talk on their behalf, but we do not provide them with training.” he said. “GAB is there for all the guides, but when it comes to benefits, only members will benefit directly. We take non-members only when our members are not enough to fill the gap.”

Challenges faced by the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB)

Garab Dorji said that although the association has enough resources, it still faces challenges in terms of funding. Currently the association receives funding mainly from the Tourism Council of Bhutan, project proposals, donations, and fund raising programmes.

The association also faces the issue of a lack of good instructors and in maintaining the quality of tour guides.  “We cannot compromise on the quality of our guides and the number of guides that are being produced. We do not need more than 1,000 guides. Quality could suffer otherwise.”

However, there is a silver lining ahead. The government is investing and giving importance to the growth of the tourism industry. GAB in its own way is also contributing towards the development of the sector by ensuring the welfare of one of its most essential components – training guides and building professionalism.

 

By Karma Cheki (This article has been edited for the Daily Bhutan)

This article first appeared on Kuensel.

 


Related Posts

Thimphu Tschechu 2017 - A Visual Feast

Tschechu, meaning ‘tenth day’ also corresponds to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). This festival is a...

Oct 06, 2017 18:29

Royal Highland Festival in Laya

To make Laya a tourist destination, the first edition of the highland festival contributed about Nu 5 million to the...

Oct 29, 2017 10:08

Yongphula Domestic Airport reopens to air traffic

After remaining closed for over four years, the Yonphula Domestic Airport in Trashigang was formally reopened yesterday....

Oct 09, 2017 18:56

Drukair to Resume Flights to Yonphula & Gelephu on 11 November...

The two domestic airports Gelephu and Yongphula, upgraded with a US$6.9 million grant from the Asian Development Bank...

Oct 28, 2017 08:55

Pray to Conceive at the Chimi Lhakhang

For couples who longed to have children, miracles were said to have happened after they have received fertility...

Nov 08, 2017 08:44

The Black-Necked Crane Festival

The arrival of the black-neck cranes signals the coming of winter and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the...

Nov 01, 2017 13:54

Latest

News

Canada Offers Scholarships For Students In Bhutan, Aims To Enhance Bilateral Ties

Through the programme starting in the 2020/2021 academic year, scholarship recipients will receive Nu 3,256,029 (about USD 45,600) a year to...

Sep 16, 2019 13:08

Delegation From Bhutan Attended UNCCD COP14 In India

Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Yeshey Penjor led a delegation to the high-level segment of the UNCCD COP14, which was held from...

Sep 12, 2019 23:58

Features

Reconstruction of Lingzhi Dzong – Built To Commemorate Bhutan’s Victory Over A Tibetan Invasion In 1668

To date, about Nu 13 million has been spent since preparatory works for the Lingzhi Dzong construction which began 15 months ago.

Sep 14, 2019 23:58

True Purpose of Rituals And Their Importance In Buddhism

Rituals are an indispensable way of life for a Bhutanese household and families are known to spend a fortune on them.

Sep 13, 2019 12:11

Sports

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08

Tour Of The Dragon – Toughest One Day Bike Race Starts On 7 September In Bhutan

It takes sheer toil and stamina for the top riders to complete the 268 km race which finishes at the capital, Thimphu.

Sep 06, 2019 23:58

Business

Sherza Ventures Limited Launched IPO, Aims To Establish Brand Bhutan Products Globally And More

Sherza Ventures Limited aims to be a hyper retail and wholesale trading venture using e-commerce.

Sep 09, 2019 10:58

iMerit Bhutan Launched, Hopes To Create Far-Reaching Socio-Economic Impact

iMerit strives to drive social and economic change by tapping into an under-resourced talent pool, thereby creating digital inclusion.

Sep 04, 2019 10:58

Travel

Plans In The Pipeline To Develop Trongsa For Tourism

“The people of Trongsa were very supportive of the tourism development concept for the locality.”

Sep 05, 2019 14:48

7 Facts You Never Knew About Flying Into Bhutan

Druk Asia interviewed Namgyal Wangchuk, Senior First Officer with Drukair to find out what it's like to fly into Paro International Airport.

Aug 07, 2019 23:18

Lifestyle

7 Vegetables You Must Try While Visiting Bhutan

Read Tashi Choden's blog on the vegetables to try if you ever visit Bhutan.

Aug 31, 2019 16:43

Many Lives, Many Stories - 10th Edition of Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Underway

About 80 speakers and performers came from different parts of the world with different stories to narrate.

Aug 25, 2019 22:42

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!