Homestays in Gangtey are seeing more visitors than those in Phobjikha

Tourism: With fewer tourists visiting them, homestay service providers in Phobjikha are not doing well unlike its neighboring gewog Gangtey.

In 2012 around 21 villagers, 10 in Phobjikha and 11 in Gangtey have started homestays as part of community based sustainable tourism under the initiative of the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN).

“Despite providing the same service, homestays in Gangtey were seeing more visitors than those in Phobjikha,” said Tshering Dorji, a chiwog tshogpa in Phobjikha. “We doubt if it is because of the distance as Gangtey is near the highway.”

Although many villagers in Phobjikha are showing interest, they remain reluctant, as the existing homestays did not receive enough guests.

Tshering Lham, a Phobji villager started her homestay in 2013 with support of Nu 15,000 from RSPN. Initially she used to receive at least two groups of tourists in a year besides a few locals, but the number of visitors dropped from 2015.

Last year Tshering Lham didn’t get any visitors. However, she said as they started the business without much investment, there was no loss.

The situation is not different for other homestay service providers in Phobjikha.

Another homestay owner Sangay Bidha said that she didn’t get any visitors since 2015 although a few locals availed the homestay services.

“We are hopeful and look forward to seeing more tourists once the national highway works are completed,” another owner Sati said.

The homestays charge about Nu 700 a night, Nu 300 for a meal and Nu 180 for breakfast while the rates are lower for locals.

Tshogpa Tshering Dorji said starting homestays has immensely changed villagers’ outlook on tourists.

Meanwhile, Pem Choden a homestay service provider in Gangtey said it has been around four years since she started a three-bedroom homestay service. The business was not good in the beginning but the number of guests has increased gradually.

“The number of guests started to increase after we placed signboards on the door, and also advertised it on social media,” said Pem Choden. “Prior to the introduction of homestays, only hotels were reaping the benefits from tourists visiting the locality but not anymore,” she said.

According to the Tourism Council’s annual report 2015, only 2.82 percent of the total visitors have stayed in homestays while 64.98 percent visitors used hotels and 29. 81 percent stayed in resorts.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue