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Guide Association of Bhutan working on standardising DSA and professional fees for guides

The tourism industry is one of the hardest hit sectors in the country by the COVID pandemic but recent reports suggest that it is gradually recovering. Amidst all the policy reforms aimed at the revival of the tourism sector, tour guides are now working on standardising their Daily Subsistence Allowance, DSA, and professional fees. With the increase in the Sustainable Development Fee, the guides are now calling for a hike in their wage as well.

The majority of the tour guides earn a DSA of around Nu 1,500 to 2,000 per day depending on the nationality of tourists, the duration of the tour, and the number of tourists according to the Guide Association of Bhutan.

The chairperson of the association said the amount at the current rate is too low. Most guides have to spend about eighty per cent of their DSA on food and accommodation during the tour.

Some tour operators pay professional fees to cover the food and accommodation expenses of the guides but some do not.

“There is competition among the tour operators, so none of them wants to lose their guests. So they land up cutting the cost; maybe on hotels, restaurants and definitely on the guides. In the beginning, the guides were paid as less as Nu 1,000,” said Garab Dorji, the chairperson of the Guide Association of Bhutan.

Further, the association plans to discuss the issue with the Department of Tourism, the tour operators, and specifically among the guides.

Through the DSA revision, the association aims to enhance the quality of guides and promote professionalism in the services offered by tour guides. The association wants the guides to be paid a DSA of at least Nu 2,000 a day.

“Now that the SDF has been raised from 65 USD per person per day to 200 USD per person per night and even Indian tourists are charged Nu 1,200 per person per night. So, accordingly, I feel there should be a raise for the tour guides also so that the operators will use more professional and seasoned guides rather than fresh guides,” added Garab Dorji.

“Guides are said to be the ambassadors of Bhutan. However, most of the guides are underpaid and all they get is the DSA. Of about 4,000 guides in the country, almost 3,000 are freelancers who do not have a monthly salary plus the DSA is very low, so it is very challenging,” said Sangay Dorji, a tour leader.

“For accompanying Indian tourists, we are given Nu 1,200 per day, so if the DSA is standardised to 2,000 by the Department of Tourism and the Guide Association, then it will be of great benefit to the guides,” said Tashi Dawa, culture guide.

Currently, there are over 1,700 licensed tour guides in the market who cleared the Tour Guide Readiness Assessment Test carried out by the tourism department.

Kinzang Lhadon

Edited by Sherub Dorji