An information centre was constructed this month in Haa to facilitate community-based tourism, especially homestays in the dzongkhag.

Haa Dzongdag Kinzang Dorji said that the centre is first of its kind in the country. “If it goes well in Haa. It could be replicated in other dzongkhags. The idea is to have homestay across the dzongkhag where tourists and guests alike have the experience of the real Bhutanese village life.”

Centre is expected to be operational in about two months.

The centre will facilitate visitors and keep records of homestays, collect charges, and help advertise and market to increase the outreach, among others.

Of the total of about 35 houses registered with the centre today, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has certified about 16 homestays in the dzongkhag. The rest are working on improving the homestays in accordance with the TCB requirements,” Kinzang Dorji said.

Chimi Homestay’s owner, Chimi Lham, 50, said that she began her homestay about a decade ago. However, she got good number of guests only in recent years. “The new information centre is likely to solve the problem of collecting charges for the services provided. We usually do not get bills cleared immediately. Sometimes, we have to go to Thimphu or Paro to find offices and that is expensive.”

In a year, she said, she gets about a hundred guests.

It was found that International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) had trained owners of about 16 homestays in Kathmandu.

Kinzang Dorji said that ICIMOD would also support establish a platform to book rooms online.

About a 15-minute-long documentary showcasing places of Haa would be showed at the centre for tourists and guests, he said. “Last year, Haa Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) decided to restrict the emergence of souvenir stores that would sell products not made in the country.”

He said that a moratorium was also issued to stop the construction of high-end resorts for three years to support the community-based tourism.

Coordinator of homestays in Haa, Kinley Wangchuk, shared concern about having to wait to collect charges. “However, home stays have definitely benefited people here. The trend of guests visiting, both Bhutanese and tourists have been increasing every year.”

Besides facilitating both customers and local communities, the information centre would provide work opportunity to local guides.

Kinzang Dorji said that Haa-Samtse road blacktopping would be completed in about three months which could enhance local tourism. “The first year will be operated by the dzongkhag. If it goes well, then the ownership of the centre would be given to the homestay owners.”

The dzongkhag administration will not take collection charges or commission for the work.

The government funded about Nu 10 million for the Centre. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and ICIMOD supported the project.

Rinchen Zangmo | Haa