For better unity, support and enhanced benefits among restaurants and hotel businesses, about 18 hoteliers in Bumthang joined the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) on July 19.

This is part of the organisation’s aim to promote cooperation among hoteliers and other stakeholders.

The organisation has close to 150 members.

HRAB’s executive director, Sangeeta Rana, said that unity was important for bigger impact. “The meeting was successful in Bumthang and that will boost the hospitality sector which is one of the largest job creators.”

Focusing on the broader aspect of unity and number, she said that there were plans to collaborate with businesses based in other parts of the country such as Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar, among others.

“As a private sector, the hospitality industry is generally looked down,” Sangeeta Rana said.

She said that whenever there were policy interventions regarding hospitality or tourism industry, the sector should be consulted, infrastructure such as the roadside toilets constructed, and immigration rules eased for the country’s economic growth. “Payment system also needs to be streamlined as restaurants and hotels have bad debt cases. One of the tour operators even ran away after only paying the first installment of the payment to one of the hoteliers.”

Chairman of the association of family-run-hotels, Tandin Dorji, said that joining the HRAB was a win-win situation. “Although the organisation approached us, we had been thinking about registering with the HRAB for a long time.”

He said that they couldn’t come to an agreement when it came to fees in the past. “However, we are happy that we joined it.  HRAB will definitely benefit our businesses as there are numerous promotional and marketing activities that we want to be a part of.”

He said that other businesses in Bumthang were willing to join the organisation.

Most hotels in Bumthang are tourist-oriented businesses, when Nepal earthquake happened, it affected the tourism industry the most, Tandin Dorji said, citing the instance as one of the challenges. “When there were talks of levying tax of about Nu500 per tourist a day, it came as a shock.”

As an organisation of restaurants and hotels and a national association for the industry, Sangeeta Rana said that HRAB was a point of contact in matters related to policy, legislation, and regulations affecting the industry.

“To interface with government agencies and other authorities on issues concerning the hotel industry,” she said.

Besides promoting the hospitality sector, HRAB also provides training to staff, marketing opportunities, and contacts through annual fairs such as outbound travel mart in India’s Mumbai.

Chairman of HRAB, Thinley Palden Dorji, said that the idea was also to have greater things possible for the industry. “We are hopeful that with the collaboration and support from other businesses, we can address most of our challenges that affect the sector.”

Rinchen Zangmo