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 Bhutan Times)

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

11 Things To Know About Bhutan's New Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering

Dr Lotay is the president of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) party that won 30 of the 47 seats in Bhutan’s third general election held on Oct...

Nov 13, 2018 10:20

Conference On ‘Improving Quality and Patient Safety in Health Care’ Held In Thimphu, Attended By International Delegates

“Their Majesties have, at all times, stressed on the importance of uplifting the lives of our people by improving and ensuring that public...

Nov 11, 2018 15:38

Features

Yak Farming In Haa, Bhutan Is Becoming A Vanishing Trade

Once an important source of livelihood for the people in Uesu Gewog, yak farming has seen its popularity wane over the years as younger...

Nov 12, 2018 16:19

Efforts Made To Preserve Bhutan’s Unique Tradition Of Zhey

Zheys are described as traditional Bhutanese folk songs. They are also sometimes referred to as classical dances.

Nov 06, 2018 15:13

Sports

Female Archer Dorji Dema Hopes To Inspire More Women To Take Up Archery In Bhutan

Dorji Dema, a mother of three is among the first women in Bhutan to play in an archery tournament.

Nov 05, 2018 08:11

Bhutanese Bagged Gold In Both Men And Women’s Category In The Scenic But Gruelling Laya Run

In a gruelling race where both locals and foreigners participated, Bhutanese won gold medals in both the men and women’s category.

Oct 24, 2018 18:01

Business

According To The World Bank, Bhutan Ranked 81st In Ease Of Doing Business Report 2019

The rankings were determined by sorting the aggregate scores on 10 parameters, each consisting of several indicators.

Nov 05, 2018 15:45

Bhutan’s First Entrepreneurship Festival Held In Thimphu To Foster The Spirit Of Innovation

A book entitled “Entrepreneur Stories” was also launched at the opening of the festival. The stories are expected to encourage young...

Oct 29, 2018 15:48

Travel

Discover The Wonders Of The Black-Necked Crane Festival – A Day Devoted To These Graceful Birds In Bhutan

This unique festival will leave a lasting impression on you. With more than a hundred villagers participating, see the fascinating masked...

Nov 09, 2018 21:39

The Theme Of Bhutan’s Jhomolhari Festival 2018 - Living In Harmony With The Ghost of High Mountains

The theme of this year’s festival 'Living in Harmony with the Ghost of High Mountains' is centred on the conservation of the elusive yet...

Nov 02, 2018 16:20

Lifestyle

17th Annual National Design and Art Competition Held In Thimphu To Showcase Bhutanese Art

The competition had three categories – gho, kira and embroidery before 2017. Since then, two new categories - traditional painting and...

Nov 13, 2018 17:24

Cultural Festival To Be Held In Thimphu To Celebrate Gross National Happiness Day On 11 November

According to the press release, the GNHCB’s President, HRH Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck and other officials would also attend the...

Nov 08, 2018 08:39

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!