Hospitality service in Gelephu at the crossroads

Nima | Gelephu

Once the 11 hotel constructions are completed, Gelephu thromde would have 48 hotel service providers, mostly driven by government conferences held in winter.

There are 37 hotels including a three-star hotel in Gelephu today.

Hotel owners said the business is dependent on conferences, local visitors, and few guests from the nearby Indian state of Assam.

The new hoteliers coming into the business is also focused on domestic customers. There are no new major economic or institutional establishments and tourist attractions that would support high-end hotel services.

Dorji from Gelephu said he planned to construct a hotel as the government was planning to open tourism in the southern belt. “However, there are no proper tourism spots that would attract high-end tourists,” he said.

He said that the conditions are not favourable for the hoteliers to focus on building star hotels. “We hardly see any tourist here. Unlike other parts of the country there are no sacred sites to attract visitors,” said Dorji.

There is a need for the government to focus on developing tourist sites and harmonise certain policies that are adversely affecting the growth of the hospitality sector.

With the limited number of tourists visiting the dzongkhag, the lone three-star hotel, Kuku Grand is hosting conferences, local customers visitors, and regional tourists.

Its owner Sonam Kuku said government building apartments and conference halls are affecting the business. “Now most conferences are done in government offices,” she said.

The hoteliers said that it would take at least five years for the business to improve.

“It’d be difficult for star hotels to sustain without major decisions or plans to support ongoing hotel construction and change in policies,” Sonam Kuku said.

The hotel received tourists from some tourism activities like bird watching and river rafting in Zhemgang and neighbouring dzongkhags.

Sarpang received the least number of tourists along with Pemagatshel, Tsirang, and Dagana last year.

The existing number of hotels in Gelephu could hardly cater to 200 guests from within the country, especially when bigger conferences happen.

An official from Yuljung Guesthouse said the increase in the number of hotels would improve services because of increased competition.

“Space is better here and the weather in winter favourable,” he said.

The officials from thromde said the construction growth is taking place at an unexpected rate. “However, it’s worrying to learn about no plans and projects coming up to support the current development.  Most constructions would complete within two years,” said the official.

The existing economic and institutional establishments are small and most of them were related to service industries.

“Industrial service centre is related to day-to-day services. Industrial Estate has its own space for development. These limited establishments around the vicinity would make the least impact for the thromde,” he said.

Gelephu Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said, “The thromde is also a gateway to India. We have industrial service centre and Jigmeling industrial estate, Gyalsung project, and Maokhola bridge coming up. These are factors leading to development.”

Most plot owners of the thromde are civil servants nearing retirement and ex-armed personnel. Gelephu later would be not only an economic hub but also an educated hub, the thrompon said.

He said once Jigmeling industrial estate starts to develop people working there would prefer to stay in Gelephu because of better services, safety, and facilities.

“Things should be dynamic now. Opportunities for engagement should be more. We need to prepare for the future,” the thrompon said.

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