The tourism industry is likely to face a slump for an indefinite period of time due to the pandemic.
Director General of TCB, Dorji Dradhul, said there are no prospects to create long-term plans for the guides.
The best TCB can do is encourage and support them to explore other alternative works.
“Currently, they are engaged in different works ranging from minimum one week to maximum of three weeks. They have to work on making trails and other road side amenities. So we are encouraging them to get registered with Build Bhutan as in this project, they will be engaged for longer period, and they will also get trainings and get skilled and they can also continue to work there,” he said.
He said that TCB is also giving recommendations and supporting the guides to take up commercial farming. TCB has already issued recommendations to guides who wanted loans to take up commercial farming.
He said, “And also we are saying that they should explore on their own. If they have any other new idea for longer engagement they can take it up, and if they are not able to carry it out, they can also discuss with the TCB so that we can help. And even if we can’t, we can always forward it to the government agencies”
He said, “Tourism is not going to reopen this year. If it opens next year, there will be a few tourists and we have so many guides and hotels. So it is going to take a lot of time.”
He added that TCB is working on enhancing the tourism industry before it reopens.
“We are going to train our hotel staff in making better food, housekeeping and also to provide better services. And we are also thinking of training guides in other fields but it will be first come first basis. We will train around 300 to 400 guides. They are the ambassadors of the country and they have to know everything about the country. In other words, they are being prepared for the future,” he added.
Executive Director of Association of Bhutan Tour Operators, Sonam Dorji, said the tourism industry could look at promoting domestic tourism.
“Within the domestic tourism, we are looking at educational and institutional tours and retreats, government and corporate sector meetings. The other facet is also we can explore pilgrimage sites, the TCB has already developed package called Druk Neykor where includes visit to 108 sacred pilgrimage sites. We can also have the thematic rafting and cycling, hiking and trekking and camping, provided there is no community transmission.”
Executive Director for the Guide Association of Bhutan, Sonam Tashi, said “We are looking at their livelihood, engaging them in work where there is a wage system. Under upcoming trainings they will be paid as well as gain skills. Around 500 of them are into construction already. And some are working in other small areas. Nearly 1,300 guides are engaged as of today. And now huge chunk of individuals are going into Build Bhutan project,” he said.
There are more than 4,000 guides in the country.