Hotels in eastern dzongkhags see bleak future 

Owners say it would take time to get back to their normal business

Neten Dorji & Kelzang Wangchuk

Resorts and hotels in Trashigang have suspended operations, while budget hotels are running bare-bone operations.

There are more than 30 hotels and restaurants in Trashigang town and their business has plummeted since Covid-19 hit the country.

Lingkhar resort owner Deki Peldon said her staff are engaged in maintenance of the resort. “Now my resort almost became like a haunted place.”

Another hotelier, Kamala Rasaily said her hotel is running half capacity owing to physical distancing requirements.

Hotelier and restaurateur of Trashigang said with the government urging to reduced movements and people staying at home, not many customers are seen, unlike past.

Yangkhil hotel in Trashigang town is seen most of the time empty. “Without events happening around, operating hotel is challenging,” said its owner, who has not been able to pay rent since April.

With fewer customers, hotel menus have also shortened. Fewer items on the menu, hoteliers said, means fewer turnover.

“I am running the business all within my means to survive,” said Dechen Zangmo, hotel owner based in Trahiyangtse town.

“Almost three months, the usual bustling dining room of my hotel has been remaining silent,” she said. “Every time customers walk into the hotel it makes me emotional.”

“The months between February and April is the time we earn the most and do well in Trashiyangtse,” said the owner of Samphel Kuenjung hotel owner, Leki.  “Without the movement of people and events, my revenue’s totally gone.”

He has negotiated with the landlord to pay a reduced rent of Nu 24,500 instead of Nu 35,000. “Landlord waived 30 percent of rent for three months which helped me to continue my business.”

Meanwhile, hoteliers in Samdrupjongkhar are worried about loan repayment now that the loan deferment and interest waiver ends this week.

The loan repayment, rental and staff salaries, among others are the common challenges for the hoteliers. Hotels remain open only that there are no customers.

Hoteliers said they have no other alternative income sources.

Maratika hotel’s proprietor, Pema Yangki, said that she was thinking of surrendering the hotel next month.

“I am worried about how I would repay the loan after June. I don’t see any opportunities,” she said.

TD guest house owner, Karma Tenzin, said the hoteliers would face problems in rental payment as most of the hotels in the thromde are on lease.

“It would help us if the concerned authorities or the government could extend the loan deferment.”

He said that the house owners have waived rental for certain percent, but it would be challenging for them to waive the rent because they would also have to pay loans. “The properties would get seized after a few months if we fail to pay the loan.”

Druk Mountain hotel proprietor, Lhuendrup Namgyel, said that staff salary, rent and loan repayment, among others are the common problems the hoteliers in the thromde face today.

“We hardly earn about Nu 1,000 a day today,” Lhuendup Namgyel said. “I have not paid rent for about four months.”

Hoteliers said that they were grateful to His Majesty The King for granting the loan deferment during such difficult times.

Hoteliers said that the only opportunities to revive their business were the opening the entry for the tourist.

“It would have helped us if the government had implemented the opening of the five entry points for the regional tourists right after the endorsement in the Assembly,” Karma Tenzin said.

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