Neten Dorji

Trashiyangtse dzongkhag known for Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, the endangered Black-necked crane in winter, and an abundance of sacred pilgrimage sites (nye) and huge potential for tourism, has not yet seen a boom in its homestay business.

Despite the potential for tourist attractions, homestay service providers in Bumdeling, Bimkhar, and Rinchengang have seen only a handful of visitors.

Five households in Bumdeling, Bimkhar, and Rinchengang in Trashiyangtse have been identified as homestays for tourists by the Department of Tourism.

Villagers improved their homes into homestays after they learnt that  Department of Tourism allows homestays to host tourists to experience firsthand rural lifestyle, tradition and culture. They were also told, that tourists stay at the village to experience the life of traditional Bhutanese families.

Three houses in Bumdeling, Bayling, and Bimkhar have restructured their homes, spending more than Nu 20,000 to start homestay.

Despite providing the same service as similar facilities in other dzongkhags, homestays in Trashiyangtse see fewer visitors than western dzongkhag.

“We doubt if it is because of the distance and road conditions,” said homestay owner, Tsheten Dhendup. “The team from the tourism council has reviewed, but we haven’t received as many tourists as we expected.”

He said that the money he spent on homestay and the training they got was a waste.

Another homestay owner Pema Lhaden said that they saw only a few officers from the tourism department visit them.

“Tourists come here to see black-necked cranes during the day and either return to Trashiyangtse or Trashigang. Only a few tourists availed homestay service here.”

She is upbeat and anticipates seeing more visitors when the widening of the national highway is complete.

The homestays charge about Nu 1,000 a night, Nu 350 for a meal and Nu 180 for breakfast while the rates are lower for locals.

The Department of Tourism identified nine homes in Yangtse and Bumdeling gewogs and five have improved their homes to suit the needs of tourists. However, only a few homestays are operating today.

Tharpala, a homestay service provider in Bumdeling said it has been around 10 years since he stopped operating homestay, a three-bedroom homestay service. The business was good in the beginning but the number of guests has decreased gradually.

“Prior to the introduction of homestays, I only received two tourists but not anymore,” he said.

One of the homestay owners said without visitors he rented his house to a civil servant.

“It is a loss for us to operate a homestay in Trashiyangtse since we did not receive enough guests,” he said. “Initially we used to receive at least two to three groups of tourists in a year, but the number of visitors dropped from 2015.”

The houses that were open to support rural tourism were not able to move fully. The operators are worried about the futility of the investment. Grants given by the government were also wasted.

Homestay owners said that it was not possible to do as expected due to lack of visitors. Now the road is improving, there is hope that tourists will visit Trashiyangtse.

A tour operator pointed out the need to make the house more efficient and tourism-friendly from the managerial side.

“Entrepreneurs should increase their investment in housing infrastructure and promotion. The government should also provide facilities to entrepreneurs.”