The Department of Tourism (DOT) in 2005 publicized Bhutan through media and various other promotional efforts like films and travel writings. These helped in attracting more tourists into the country. Despite the increasing number of tourists visiting our country, the number of guides, who have been trained and licensed, have exceeded the demand in the market.
Though it is the peak season for tourists, the guides in the country are facing numerous problems. Many guides, particularly new ones, have problems receiving assignments, despite the fact that the number of tourists visiting the country has increased.
Nima Palden, a senior guide, said: “Before, we did not have to go to travel agencies begging for tour. They always called us. But now it is completely different as there are more trained guides available.” “It will be a tough competition for newly trained guides as the competition has tremendously increased, and the travel agencies are always looking for experienced guides,” he added.
According to records at the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), there are 1300 guides in the country, 600 were trained recently.
Passang Singye, one of the proprietors of a travel agency said: “In the past there was a dearth of guides, as there were only a few trained ones. So we had to recruit people who were not qualified, but had good knowledge about our country. So, we had to bear the fines for the guides without license, if the tour inspectors caught them.”
“Now we don’t have to worry about the shortage of guides during peak tourist seasons. Everyday there are one or two guides walking in, asking for tour assignments. It is good that government has trained many guides as tourism industry is booming in the country,” he added.
Tobgay, a recently trained guide, said: “Since we are newly trained, it is very difficult to get tours as we lack experience and people always seek experience. Moreover, we don’t have any acquaintance or connection with any of the travel agencies. If we don’t get any chance, how will we get experience and how can they judge our ability without sending us on tour?”
Tenzin, a senior guide, had a very busy schedule last year. But this year, he stated that he was running short of luck.
He said: “Last year I never got a day of rest. As soon as I dropped my guests, I had to pickup another group. It was a tight schedule as well as good money. But this year I have done only 1 trip, and I am still waiting for another tour group some 15 days later.”
Speaking about the hiring of the guides, Tashi Tshoki, proprietor of Gungshing Travel, said: “It is our business, so we have to be very careful in selecting the guides, as we don’t want to lose our clients because of the guide’s fault.”
When asked if the guide certification course was being conducted according to the demand in the market, Tek Bahadur Tiwari, an official of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operator (ABTO), said: “The main purpose of training more guides is to ensure the quality of work. If there are more guides in the market, then the travel agencies will have more options to choose their guides for the assignment.”
“Recently trained guides will have difficulty in their initial stage, as they lack experience and knowledge in this field. But in future, it won’t be same as the number of tourists visiting is increasing every year,” he added.
According to TCB spokesperson, Tashi Payden, guide certification courses are being carried out depending on the feedback of the tour operators on the availability of number of guides in the market. Generally up to two certification courses are being conducted annually.