Bongde Institute of Hospitality and Tourism began yesterday with 30 trainees

Tourism: To professionalise the industry by producing well-trained manpower for the hospitality sector, the Bongde Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (BIHT) started operations from yesterday with its first batch of 30 trainees.

Located in Bondey, Paro, BIHT is the third tourism and hospitality institute in the country, initiated with support from a Swiss-based foundation, Bhutan Learning Exchange Foundation.

BIHT’s master trainers said the founder was a Dutch anthropologist, who had worked in Bhutan for more than two decades, during which she saw the need for such a project, considering Bhutan’s job market scenario.  The foundation contributed about Nu 7M (million) to set up the institute.

The institute has six trainers and offers a one-year course in food production (kitchen), food and beverage and housekeeping, besides a three-month internship with established hotels in the country.  Of the 30 trainees, most have completed their class XII, while the rest are class X dropouts.  The trainees pay Nu 21,000 a year for boarding, food, and uniform.

As the training institute is operating from an already established resort with 13 rooms, the trainers expect to provide the trainees a hands on training, focusing mostly on practical and three hours of theory a day.

“With the institute catering to tourists and other guests, the trainees will receive on-the-job training, which is a new concept in Bhutan,” one of the master trainers from Switzerland, Adrien Rebord, said. “In the hospitality industry, the human component is very essential.”

BIHT, according to officials, is a non-profit project envisioned towards sustainability, by adopting best practices from countries with reputed hospitality industry.

“After three years, BIHT should be able to sustain on its own without assistance from outside and managed by Bhutanese,”Adrien Rebord said.  The income generated from the resort will be used to support the institute.

With already two such institutes in Thimphu producing more than 100 graduates every year, trainers at BIHT are still optimistic of their trainees’ employability.

Another master trainer, Auke Thijssen from Denmark, said that Bhutan had its tourism policies geared towards providing quality services as a high-end destination, for which trained manpower is required.

“Many hotels are coming up including international chains, so demand for trained manpower is bound to increase,”Auke Thijssen said. “As the third training institute, we complement each other, with each one of us catering to different needs.”

Ashish Sharma, 23, a class X drop out, was a security guard at a four-star hotel, prior to joining the institute. “My interest in the hospitality industry developed after joining the hotel and I wanted to do more,” he said.

When Ashish Sharma saw the announcement in the newspaper, he applied for it immediately, and was selected for the food and beverage department. “The boarding facilities is an advantage for people like me, because if I’ve to get trained in Thimphu, I wouldn’t be able to afford the training,” he said.

After completing class XII from a private school in Thimphu, Sonam Choki, 21, was clueless on what she should do next, as her parents couldn’t afford to send her for further studies.

With most job vacancies demanding experience, joining the institute was the best option for Sonam Choki, who will be trained in kitchen services, also known as the food production department.

“Even if I don’t land a job in any of the hotels, I can always start my own business,” she said.

By Kinga Dema