Yeshey Lhadon

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, hoteliers are trying hard to keep the business afloat.

Most of the tourist standard hotels are either closed temporarily or used as quarantine facilities. Some hoteliers are renovating their property.

A three-star luxury hotel in Thimphu, Hotel Glory, has been turned into a paying guest (PG) house after the lessee surrendered the hotel. The owner, Dawa Norbu, said that he intended to rent out his hotel at an affordable rate to the graduates who are preparing for Royal Civil Service Examination (RCSE).

Hotel Glory expects to earn Nu 70,000 a month from the 15 rooms which are fully occupied.

Dawa Norbu has not only discounted accommodation price, but also prices of meals—Nu 50 for three-item breakfast and Nu 100 for three-item lunch and dinner.

He said: “I think it’s better than keeping the hotel closed. But I am not sure whether we can even make enough to pay water and power bills at the end of the month.” In an attempt to attract customers, the hotel cut prices of drinks and sauna.

Dawa Norbu’s plan is to change the hotel into a bachelor’s quarter if the PG fails.

Bhutan Boutique Residency is another three-star hotel that has opened its door to walk-in guests. The owner, Sonam, said that the hotel saw only one or two local guests in a month, as many Bhutanese people have the tradition of staying over with their friends and relatives for a few nights.

Sonam observed that the guests who visited his hotel were mostly clandestine couples. “I strictly instructed my manager and staff not to entertain guests who are into substance abuse or those who are in clandestine relationships,” he said.

When asked about how “bubble tourism” could help the hoteliers to make some income, Sonam said: “I think the bubble tourism wouldn’t be much effective for three-star hotels like ours. Only the wealthy tourists can afford to visit the country. They might choose more luxurious hotels.”

Bhutan Boutique residency’s revenue comes mainly from the regional tourists.

However, Hotel Dralha is positive about bubble tourism. Bubble tourism is expected to happen March next year. Dralha’s manager, Ghana Shyam Sharma, said: “Basically, we are supported by the government’s relief fund until now. We’re looking forward to recouping our business through bubble tourism.”

Hotel Dralha provides only room stay service. The accommodation rate is negotiated depending on how long the guests come in to stay. The hotel’s occupancy rate is only about two rooms a week. The plan is to start a restaurant and take away service and convert some of the rooms as conference halls.

Pedling Hotel and Spa in the heart of Thimphu is exploring ways to keep its staff paid.

A staff member, Ram said: “How long can we depend on the Royal Kidu? Our proprietor has come up with some ideas to diversify the income source to be able to keep all of the hotel’s 55 staff.”

Besides providing eatery and lodging services to the guests, the hotel has started running a cloth store.

“We are trying every possible way to keep the business going,” said Ram.

Currently, the Pedling staff are selling organic fruits and vegetables at Fuloushou fine dining.

Ram said: “So far, the sale of organic fruits and vegetables have been going smoothly. But right now, during such a crisis, we don’t think of profit but sustainability.”