Haa plans to come up with 100 more homestays during the 12th Five Year Plan across the dzongkhag.
Currently there are 24 homestays in the dzongkhag and nine more applicants have proposed to come up with such venture. Home stays are located in all the six gewogs of Haa.
The district is trying to promote tourism through homestays and nature tourism. The dzongkhag also plans to have homestays in all the gewogs so that tourists get an opportunity to stay in any part of the Haa.
Haa Dzongda Kinzang Dorji said that Haa cannot boast of having many tourist sites like other parts of the country such as Paro. Haa’s unique advantage is being a green dzongkhag with a clean environment and rich cultural heritage, “therefore we are taking advantage of what we got rather than looking at others,” said the Dzongda.
“What we have is nature tourism. We are trying to promote homestays offering something different and unique,” said the Dzongda.
Dzongda said that homestays do not require big investments because it just needed upgradation of existing facilities.
In Haa, most of the homestays are managed by women, which empowers women creating employment.
“The homestays owners are making enough money, and no homestay is running on a loss,” said the Dzongda, adding that homestays do not have to maintain regular employees but they just need to keep their rooms clean.
However, homestays face marketing challenges because they do not have capacity to market themselves and the other challenge is collection of bill payments.
He said that when tour operators sent guests to home stays they say that they will pay but for the homestays but sometimes the collection cost is more than the income.
To address the challenges, Haa has come up for the first time with a tourist information center. The center will help the homestays to market and collect bill payment.
The center will also help promote tourism in the dzongkag.
Dzongda said that they want yak herders and other individuals to come up with unique products too so that they can tag their own price keep in the center. The authorities would also train them to make souvenirs.
The Dzongkhag has also trained homestays owners by sending them to Kathmandu.
Soon the Dzongkhag is going to conduct a meeting with tour operators and will sign an agreement so that tour operators through Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators will directly contact to the center.
The center was established on pilot basis; it was inaugurated and will start operations soon. The center will be run by association of homestays in Haa.
“We also regulate the price of the homestays so that nobody gets cheated. We have home stays depending on the standard of homestays ranging from
Nu 1,000 to Nu 3,000 per night,” said the Dzongda.
Haa Dzongkhag is also going to supply green house materials to every homestay owner so that they can grow organic vegetables.
The Dzongda said that for Haa, Royal Bhutan Flower exhibition is one of the biggest opportunities to promote tourism.
“Haa cannot promote tourism through high end hotels, Dzongkhag tshogdue has put moratorium on construction high end hotels. As of now there are only three three star hotels. These hotels are already approved in principle or already exist before DT resolutions. It was three years back. We are thinking not to lift this moratorium,” said the Dzongda.
Meanwhile, the owner of Ugyen homestay, Ugyen said that they are not getting bill payments on time and some of the bills have not been paid still by the tour operators.
In his homestay, around six to seven guests can be accommodated.
Ugyen said that in a year he earns around Nu 100,000 to Nu 200,000.
Similarly, the owner of Chimi homestay, Dema said that the payments are not in cash and it has to go through office with bill which takes time.
She said that for one to two people staying for one to two nights earns very less amount and the tour operators forget to make bill payments which creates problems.
In her home stay there are three rooms and in each room two guests can be accommodated.
In a year, Chimi earns about Nu 100,000.
According to the Tourism Council of Bhutan, the number of tourists visiting Haa in 2017 was 5,225. In 2016, there were 4,550 tourist arrivals and in 2015, 4,212. While this was an increase from the previous year, it is much lower than Haa’s capacity to absorb tourists.
Dechen Dolkar from Haa