Tour guides worried over sustainability issue

There are around 3000 plus guides who are sustaining on the Kidu programme

Most of the tour guides, including both the permanent and freelance, are worried about their sustainability with tourism having not resumed to normalcy and the extension of Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu (DGKR) ending on June 22.

“The DGRK will be getting over after next month, while the businesses are slowly getting back to normalcy. But the tourism industry is yet to start operating again like before the pandemic,” said a freelance tour guide.

According to Karma Lotay, the Chief Executive Officer of Yangphel Adventure Travels, for the tourism to rebound to the 2019 normalcy situation might take around four to five years.

Another freelance tour guide, Tshewang, said that she is currently confused and unable to arrange anything.

“Now that the relaxation period has begun and businesses are returning to normalcy, many people believe that the tourism industry will be revived as well. However, tourism will need time to operate as it did prior to the pandemic,” she said.

“We cannot explore other means of employment currently and to sustain after the Kidu will be hard. We don’t know whether tourism would operate like before the pandemic. The DGRK, which has been a great source of help for us, will be getting over soon too,” she added.

Tshewang said that it is a good move from the government’s side to open the tourism industry, which will help many formerly laid off employees of the sector even though not all the employees will be able to get work.

“The sector has tried their best to employ the former guides in various fields like trail maintenance and they were also offered different courses related to tourism. However, there are still many laid off workers, who solely depend on the Kidu,” she said.

Now that the government is planning to reopen tourism, another tour guide, Tshering Dorji said, “We are now hoping for the best.”

According to a tour guide and the vice chairman of the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB), Phub Tshering, while a number of individuals depended on the tourism industry before the pandemic and later on the DGRK after the Covid-19, the question now is about the sustainability of these tour guides after the discontinuation of the Kidu. 

Meanwhile, Covid19 has impacted a lot of people in the country and the tourism sector has been hit the hardest. Since the closure of the borders and suspension on the entry of foreign tourists into the country, many employees working in the tourism industry were left jobless. However, the DGRK has been a huge support to those laid off employees in the industry and has helped them sustain for more than two years now.

His Majesty The King’s Relief Kidu for all those who have lost jobs, businesses or are placed on reduced salaries due to the Covid-19 pandemic was launched on April 14, 2020. His Majesty during the Royal Address to the nation on April 10, 2020 had commanded the setting up of DGRK for Bhutanese directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And on April 22, 2021, the Prime Minister announced about His Majesty personally having commanded that the DGRF be continued and extended till June 2022. 

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu