The tourism industry’s journey to the top – has it begun? Is it faltering? Are the planned activities realistic? Is funding adequate? Are industry players adequately committed and knowledgeable in what is called for? Do they know what direction to take? I have no answer to all that as yet.
One thing I know though, and I have said it often enough in the past – in my articles and in my talks to the trainee guides. It is my understanding that the most important players in the service chain in the tourism industry are the guides! They are the very first faces the tourists will see – and theirs are the last faces the tourists will see before they depart the country, and every single day in between. How ably the guides perform in the discharge of their duties will go to shape the impressions that the guests will form in their minds – about the country and the tourism sector as a whole. Thus, guides must receive their just due.
Unfortunately, according to the Chairman of the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB), Garab Dorji, guides are most often treated with obvious disdain. If that were not enough, according to him, they are paid less than what they deserve. If this is true, it must be said that such behavior is self-defeating. For the tour operator who employs them, a happy and contented guide is bound to perform better at making their guests happy. A grouchy and unhappy guide is unlikely to give happiness to their guests.
In my experience, it is not just the tour operators – but the hotel owners – who must pay heed to the mood of the guides. I have known guides to influence tour operators’ decisions, as to where to host their guests. Keeping the guides happy while within their property has helped hotel owners keep their business flowing in, uninterrupted. I know of tour operators who stopped giving business to certain hotels – based on the negative reports by their guides.
Recently I visited a brand new player in the hotel business – The Pema By Realm, located in lower Motithang.
Now perhaps there are others who may do the same – but this is the only hotel of whom I know that provides a nicely appointed living space – entirely built for use of the guides and drivers – their “Charos Lounge”.
A nice little touch – guides can sit in the room while they wait for their guests to emerge. It has a TV to boot – and an attached toilet to go with it – a totally self-contained living space. Perhaps the difference is not in the realm of the stratospheric – but certainly a notch above the rest – everything else being equal.
This hotel obviously treats the guides and drivers with equal humility, as they do their valued guests. Now this is a gesture that all hotels must try and emulate – for the sake of their own business.
The writer is an ardent blogger and Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu.