The operation of home stays has witnessed an increasing trend over the years and a majority of home stay operators are female, representing the contribution of women in household decision-making and their role in entertaining guests.

According to an evaluation on eco-tourism by the Gross National Happiness Commission in April this year, about 74 percent of home stay operators are without any basic education. About 11 percent have attended high school level, four percent below high school level, and nine percent attended non-formal education. Only about two percent are university graduates.

“This indicates that the operators had some communication problems with the visitors and there was need of interpreters while communicating with the visitors,” it states.

The evaluation recorded an increasing trend in almost all the dzongkhags with the highest growth recorded in Paro at 25 percent. Lhunentse and Wangdue follows at 23 and 20 percent.

Home stays in Bumthang recorded a growth of 15 percent and Haa 13 percent. Other dzongkhags like Zhemgang and Trashiyangtse have also witnessed steady growth of three percent over the years.

Of the 117 registered home stays across 11 dzongkhags, 49 samples were taken into considerations covering seven dzongkhags. A home stay and three eco-lodges from Zhemgang were also included in the sample, which are not included within the registered home stay list considering the geographical spread.

The study states that the sample size for the survey was randomly selected based on the geographical location of the home stays, distribution of new and old establishments, and equivalent representation from each of the localities in the dzongkhag as well as gender distribution.

It states that 51 percent of the home stay operators said that there was an increasing trend of operation of home stays and 36 percent said there are many others showing interest to establish new home stays.

There are, however about 10 percent of the operators who want to convert home stays into homes due to limited number of visitors and difficulty in managing home stays since they are operated by a single-family member.

In terms of the establishment of the home stays and its operational experience, there was one home stay in Thimphu and in Paro which have been operating for the last 15 years followed by those which have been in operation for six to eight years in Wangdue, Haa, Bumthang, Lhuntse and Trashiyangtse. The rest are less than five years old.

Wangdue has 28 home stays, the highest in the country, followed by 23 in Haa and 19 in Lhuntse. Bumthang has 14 and the rest of the dzongkhags have three to nine home stays. Mongar and Trashigang has one each.

Most visitors are managed through tour operators and tour guides as responded by 30 percent of the tour operators. About 20 percent of the operators said they also used personal contacts. Another 13 percent said they used direct contact with the tour operators to manage visitors to the home stays.

“This shows that only those operators who can manage better networks with the people working in the tourism sector has better opportunity to get maximum number of visitors than those who do not possess such skills,” it states.

More than 40 percent of the visitors who avail home stay services were international visitors, and 22 percent were regional tourist. Private individuals, most of whom are domestic people account for 20 percent and government officials 11 percent.

While the visitors received by the home stays varies among places and type of facilities provided, few home stays in Paro and Zhamgang received more than 400 visitors.

Good network among tour guides and operators contributed more visitors to the home stays.

The study found that one of the home stay in Lhuntse have not received a single visitor since its establishment due to it being far off from the road point and lack of network with the tour operators and guide.

Absence of transportation or taxi facility in the locality, bad road conditions in summer and thick forests were some of the other factors contributing to low turnover.

“In the case of Zhemgang, it is mainly due to more regional travelers coming from across the border of Gelephu and Manas and also due to various products available in the region to experience by the visitors,” it states.

Dechen Tshomo