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A focal point for the hospitality industry

Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan

To promote sustainable tourism and represent the hospitality industry, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) was formed in 2007 by a group of 10 enthusiastic hoteliers in the country.

The association was an effort to address issues related to hotel business and encourage and improve the hospitality industry.

Executive Director of HRAB, Sangeeta Rai said that like every Civil Society Organisation (CSO), funding is a challenge. “It is difficult to convince small budget hotel owners to be a member of the organisation.”

She said that besides small budget hotels, all star rated hotels are members of the organisation.

In collaboration with Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), the association provides training to hotel staff on food handling, fire hazards and safety during disasters such as earthquakes. “The training is conducted mostly during the lean season and funds are sought from the labour ministry.”

Apart from providing training, the organisation also helps in marketing and promoting hotels through participation in travel fairs.

HRAB also makes hotel directories that are distributed widely in travel fairs. It helps in classification of hotels and makes hoteliers aware of the requirements if they want to upgrade their hotels.

Sangeeta Rai said that lobbying with the government was the most important function of the association. “It’s been positive for HRAB to date.”

The recent issue of sustainable development fund fee and allowing regional tourists to come only through e-permit would affect the business of small budget hotels in the country, she said.

She said that with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the two neighbouring countries India and Nepal, the association has been seeing the benefits.

It plans on signing similar MoU with Thailand and other Asian countries so that the hotel industry could have more exposure and gain benefits.

Sangeeta Rai said that the association is planning on exchange programmes where staff and members could work in hotels in India and Nepal.

It was found that the agreement apart from offering discounts to members, also helped get trainers from bigger hotels to train hotel staff in the country.

“If there is no exposure and training, people cannot grow. It is important that lots of training were provided for our members to build capacity and gain experience,” Sangeeta Rai said.

The association conducts hospitality fairs to raise fund for the organisation and to also create a platform for the members to promote their hotels. “It creates a kind of B to B platform where relevant person and stakeholders from other countries are also present at the fair.”

The third hospitality fair was conducted from December 1-5 this year.

In future, HRAB plans on opening offices in all 20 dzongkhags. Although the organisation has representative from each dzongkhag, HRAB plans to cover hotels across the country and provide trainings to these hotels through support from labour ministry.

She said that there is a duplication of training as similar trainings are being conducted by different agencies. “We need to come together and club these similar programmes to minimise budget waste.”

HRAB aims to serve as a common platform, and a national point of reference on policy matters, legislation and regulations affecting the industry.

It also wants to collaborate with government agencies and other authorities on issues concerning the hotel industry.

The organisation had been working with Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Handicrafts Association of Bhutan (HAB), and Guides Association of Bhutan (GAB).

It has been trying to get fund so that it can work closely with more organisations such as Bhutan Toilet Organisation as the hotel industry produces large amount of waste.

There are about 98 registered members with HRAB today.

Vision

The HRAB will act as a voice of the industry to promote, protect, represent and advance the interests of the industry.

Mission

To represent the interest of the members, foster their economic and professional growth while uplifting standards of hotels and contributing towards sustainable development of tourism in Bhutan.

Objectives

Serve as a common platform & a national point of reference A forum and point of contact on policy matters, legislation, and regulations affecting the industry & to interface with government agencies and other authorities on issues concerning the hotel industry. Promote cooperation among hotels & other stakeholders Establish & promote code of ethics To formulate strategies, in the areas of land, finance, taxation, training procedures and legislation to accelerate further growth. Mediate & arbitrate (resolve) Represent, foster, develop, encourage and improve the tourism industry.

Rinchen Zangmo

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