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Homestays in Bhutan: Here to stay? A glance at the niche offering in the country’s tourism sector

July, 2022

Bhutan, The Birthplace of Gross Domestic Happiness, lies cradled in the lap of the Himalayas. The rich flora and fauna spread across the wide expanse of land and the rich biodiversity, combined with unique culture and traditions, makes it a favourite among tourists. The government uses this as a commercial advantage by keeping tourism as a priority sector in terms of expansion and growth of the economy.

However, the government of Bhutan follows a unique ideology in terms of tourism where they aim to make tourism green, sustainable, inclusive and of high value. This is in sync with the national development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Their objective is to promote high value and low volume tourism in a way that does not undermine national security and erode their tangible and intangible cultural heritage and environment.

Bhutan opened its doors to tourists in the 20th century and since then has managed to maintain its definitive character packed with cheerful natives, peculiar traditions, lively dances and stunning sights. One aspect that can actually be a helping hand to Bhutan tourism is expanding and focusing on the homestay industry.

A homestay model fits quite well with the Bhutan Tourism Model since it promises an experience of the country filled with local food, culture and people. 

Bhutan Tourism Industry is a good tool to promote the local economy. They are a rapidly emerging form of tourism accommodation services, providing economic benefits to host families and communities through the use of family homes as traditional lodgings. It is a promising avenue to support rural economic diversification by offering tourists diverse products and services, including local food, organic and dairy produce, and the experience of rural farms and hospitality. 

So far, the tourism of Bhutan has been sustainable and to be on this continual growth trajectory, local input and involvement are extremely essential because this not only helps in supporting livelihoods of local residents and communities but also spurs long term economic growth.

It is also to be noted that tourism to Bhutan is a product across income sections giving opportunity for diversification of products across categories with varying comforts and luxuries.  The spending capacity per day also depends on the number of visitors, which tends to be higher for Europeanas as compared to Americans and Asians.

Challenges that lie ahead for the Bhutan homestay market
At present, the total number of visitors for tourism to Bhutan may seem more. However, the repeat visitors continue to be at a low of less than 6 percent. Improving this percentage should be a major objective in the minds of all stakeholders involved in this sector. It is important to realize that the homestay market comes with its own set of challenges. Since it includes involvement of locals across the entire zone, there may be problems with standardization of certain services. Moreover, maintenance of quality in order to make sure tourists are satisfied with their stay is an area to consider. 

However, these can be overcome with development and proper guidance by parent companies who have already been in this homestay market in other countries. This gives them an opportunity to enter the Bhutan Market and explore this unique aspect where both the company and the people of Bhutan will be at an advantage.

  • Kavya Aggarwal 

Kavya Aggarwal is a passionate and driven college student who is always looking for an opportunity to explore into new topics of interest