Dechen Dolkar

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is validating and assessing tourism service providers – tour operators and hoteliers – on their readiness to welcome tourists under the new tariff regime beginning  September 23 this year.

Hotels and homestays will be assessed based on dimensions such as services, safety and security, sustainable practices, hygiene and cleanliness, infrastructure, quality, and providing authentic Bhutanese experiences.

The assessment will take place in two stages: desk review of applications and documents, and only applications found to be meeting the requirements based on desk review will be further confirmed through on site observation.

According to TCB, all service providers will be assessed, validated and certified. They will be allowed to host tourists and conduct tourism business after passing the assessment.

For instance, tourist guides will need to be certified by the council as competent guides. This assessment will be the basis for renewal of license and certification.

TCB this week notified that validation of hotels and tour operators will start from July 27.  In view of the requirement of all guests to stay in TCB certified accommodations, the readiness assessment will be carried out only for 3-star and above hotels.

TCB officials said that the service providers must meet all the requirements as set up by the Council.

Tour operators should have valid licenses, proper office setup, websites, service rules and policy and payment facility.

“The company should develop their own service rules and policy about the tour packages. Since different tour operators will be promoting different services at a different rate,” a TCB official said. However, he said the criteria are subject to change in the future.

For hotels, parameters include having directional signage, main entrance, parking signboard and approach road from an external approach.

The hotels should have all the infrastructure and services at the front office, common restroom, guest room, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, back area and safety and security for the guest.

Hotels should also have hospitality staff, Wi-Fi connection of a minimum of 2mbps,  reservation system,  concierge,  payment systems like swift card and payment gateway and a service policy.

Hotels should also have sustainable practices like water-saving or energy-saving messages or posters, organic or local products, waste minimizing practices and minimum use of the plastic product.

The official said that for homestays, they should provide an authentic community experience that should be unique so that tourists will never forget their stay and experience.

An official from TCB said that the validation will not be a one-time exercise. All service providers will have to continue to upgrade their services and apply for validation as and when ready.

TCB will also issue a separate notification after October 15.