The once bustling handicraft and fast food market at the base of Taktsang Monastery at Paro is seeing just a trickle of vendors and customers after the COVID-19 was confirmed in the past weeks.
The businesses include vendors who sell walking sticks, handicraft products and jewelry. Fast food business had also been soaring in the past.
But now, vendors have stopped coming to the place for almost a week now. A group of men and women who used to provide pony services to the tourists has also vanished.
“After the government announced about the first case confirmed case of COVID-19, the vendors never returned to their stalls,” said a farmer who has settled at the base of the monastery.
The decrease in the number of tourists visiting the place in recent days has hindered the handicrafts shops, fast food businesses as well as the sale of walking sticks.
One of the stall owners said their income has decreased steadily over the weeks. Forty-two year old Aum Lhamo who has been selling traditional handicraft products and jewelryfor more than seven years now said she used to earn Nu 8,000 to Nu 10,000a week and sometimes, a profit of Nu 50,000 a month especially during occasions or during the peak tourist seasons.
“But now, the situation has changed. My business can’t run without tourists,” she said.
Another stall owner said that after hearing that the American tourist who tested positive for COVID had returned to his native land he set up his stall again but it was just a waste of time because he could not sell a single handicraft. “So I am staying at home doing house chores,” he added.
Likewise, porter pony business has halted.
During the tourist season, horse contractors charge about Nu 880 per horse if three horses are hired with a horseman. But if the tourist wants a horseman with a horse, the cost is Nu 1,100.
“It is quite challenging to rear animals when we can’t bear the expenses,” said a farmer, “We can’t even earn to sustain our family, so we need to look at other alternative business.”
Kinley Yonten from Paro