Chhimi Dema

There is a buzz in the Zangmo Village Homestay in Ngyenphey, Phobjikha. From afar comes the whirring of chainsaw.

The family is constructing a new toilet and bathroom next to the small lobby.

The toilet outside is inconvenient to the guests, says the homestay owner, Zangmo. 

The floor is freshly polished and the walls are painted the traditional way. The one-storey house is getting ready to receive guests.

Zangmo says that with the closure of the border, not many guests came to visit.

“We see better days coming now. Even if international tourists do not come, we will get local visitors,” she says.

The homestay is registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and has been operational since 2017.

There are 158 village homestays in the country that have registered with TCB.

Homestay is an additional source of income for many families in the country. It has allowed rural communities to take advantage of modern technologies as well.

However, while some homestay owners expect good business with the increase in Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) others are worried that this might discourage guests from coming to the country.

Passang Tobgay, 35, from Phobjikha, says that he expects more local tourists to visit his homestay.

He says that homestay is a good business to earn extra income. “But with the new SDF, I am not too sure about my income from the homestay.”

Homestay owners have mixed feelings about the increased SDF.

Dema Village Homestay’s owner, Kencho Wangdi, says that with the borders opening soon he sees two things on the way: fewer opportunities for homestay business with hotels providing standard services and more local tourists coming to homestays.

He says: “The government has increased the SDF to provide quality tourism; I am trying to improve the quality of service in my homestay.”

For the past few months, Kencho has been renovating his homestay. The tiled toilets with washbasins, water supply, and geysers are expenditures he hopes will not go in vain.

The homestay in Paro offers experiences such as gardening or playing archery and Khuru, among others.

Kencho says he was informed that officials from the Tourism Council of Bhutan are visiting the homestay.

“The quality of services I provide will also have impact on the country’s reputation. I am giving my best to provide quality service,” he added.

One homestay owner said that before the pandemic homestay guests were mostly regional tourists. “With increase in SDF, many might not be keen to come.”