The local communities in Phobjikha and Gangtey, Wangduephodrang are receiving an increasing number of tourists in their homes each year. The income generation from home stay service, made possible through the community-based sustainable tourism scheme, is helping the local farmers.
There are more than 20 home stays in the two gewogs that offer accommodation facilities; Gangtey with 10 households and Phobjikha with another 10 households. Each home stay has the capacity to accommodate four persons in two rooms.
The home stay, an initiative of Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), is aimed to foster community participation in facilitation and delivery of tourism services and to assist the local community to manage home stay in an efficient and economically viable manner.
Phobjikha, due to its significance as an important conservation area, was an ideal place for establishing the service starting in 2003, under the Conservation and Sustainable Livelihood Program.
According to the ex chairman of the community-based sustainable tourism project in Phobjikha, Gyaltshen, the home stay service is a great success as of now, especially for the homes located near the Black-necked crane habitat.
Gyaltshen said that the number of home stays has increased in a short span of time in the gewogs, especially in Phobjikha. He said the extra income derived from home stay is of an immense benefit to the farmers. He added that a portion of the income is also used in community development works.
According to Gyaltshen, a total of 300 tourists have stayed in the home stay accommodation in January 2016. He said the number of tourists coming to Phobjikha during the peak and lean seasons has increased significantly each year.
“More farmers are interested to start with home stay business, looking at the benefit they reap from it,” Gyaltshen said. He added that the home stay owners have received management training along with the knowhow to set up basic amenities, such as modern sanitation and other accommodation facilities in their homes.
In a home stay set up, both the tourists and local people get to experience and exchange different culture and traditions through interaction with family members of the household, consuming local food and drinks, and participation in daily household chores such as cooking, milking of cow, etc. Depending on the season, visitors may also have the opportunity to participate in gardening and farm activities including crop plantation, harvesting, etc.
During his tenure as the chairman, Gyaltshen said he received a lot of positive feedback from tourists. He pointed out that many of the tourists preferred the home stay accommodation over the high end hotels.
One of the home stay providers from Gangtey, Tshering Lham, 33, said that tourists are drawn to Phobjikha as it is a prime Black-necked crane habitat, making it a top tourist destination in the country. She said the number of tourists visiting the Phobjikha area is increasing each year, causing a shortage in lodging. Therefore, she was encouraged to start a home stay service. She did not have to invest much capital and started the home stay in 2012.
The chairman of the Phobjikha home stay, Passang, said Phobjikha receives three to four tourists in a month during the peak season. At times, a big group of tourists also occupy the home stays which help the locals to earn good money.
Home stays are being introduced in many places around the country with tourism potential. RSPN has identified more places to set up home stays, after the success story in Phobjikha and Gangtey.