In preparation to restart tourism in the country, the clean and safe certification of training of the trainers (ToT) to a pool of hotel experts and Royal Institute for Tourism and Hospitality (RITH) graduates with hospitality background began in Thimphu from 28 September and ended on 2October.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has developed an operational guideline for tourism services to guide the stakeholders in the tourism industry to operate in the “new normal era”.
The certification will be a mandatory pre-requisite for all tourism service providers to open their services to tourists.
The key components of the guideline are the “Clean and Safe” certification of the service providers to ensure that the organization or business are safe, clean and ready to serve customers in compliance with health and safety protocols.
Currently there are 180-star rated hotels in the country and more than 500 budget hotels (now blue poppy hotel) where all will be assessed and monitored by TCB in accordance with clean and safe certification guidelines.
The training on health and safety protocols for the tourism service providers is conducted by the TCB in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Kheser Gyapo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB). The face-to-face training will be provided to hotels and tourist restaurant staff while online training will be conducted for tour operators and guides.
Assistant Professor at KGUMSB who is a resource person for this ToT, Dr Kipchu Tshering, said that giving basic knowledge about Covid-19 to the tourism service provider is necessary and that through such training it will benefit the restart of tourism sector in the country.
The tourism service providers must fulfill the following conditions in order to be certified which includes staff in key positions must be trained on health and safety protocols; and all physical structures and facilities should be assessedby a team authorized by the MoH and TCB.
TCB has looked up to different country in order to implement and regulate clean and safe protocol to tourism service providers.
Senior Tourism Officer, Karma Tenzin stated that the response from most of the hotel owners and hoteliers has been encouraging on the formulation of clean and safe protocol in the new normal.
One challenge that TCB face is that some hoteliers don’t register for the training and points out their issues of having less staff and that their hotel is closed, says Karma Tenzin. TCB also mentions that the clean and safe certification to the tourism service provider is not feasible to the southern region of the country as there is quarantine and health protocols to follow up if such training is to be conducted.
Kinley Wangchuk, Assistant Lodge Host at Aman Kora said that it is extremely important that TCB has initiated such training as it is a means for the survival of tourism in the country and a safety measures for both the tourist and people of the country.
While Dechen Denkar, assistant lecturer at RITH who is going to further train the tourism service providers around the country points out that hoteliers not sending relevant people to be trained can be one issue and that language barrier can be prevalent when they train the budget hotel as they are taught in English during the ToT.
Two staff from star rated hotels, one from non-star (budget) hotels and one from tourist standard restaurants must undergo the training and these staff must conduct in-house training to all their staff in their respective property.
Currently there are 33 Tourist Standard Restaurant certified by TCB in the country where they will all undertake the clean and safe certification while the rest of the normal restaurant (not registered with TCB) will comply with measures of ministry of health.
The training will provide information about Covid-19 and its sign and symptoms, transmission, infection control and some practical sessions on disinfection, clean and safe certification program; and awareness on blue poppy standards for non-star (budget) hotels.
It will also focus to standardize and certify the non-star rated hotels in the country where awareness program will be initiated and these hotels will be categorized as Blue Poppy Hotels upon their fulfillment of standards developed by National Standard Bureau (NSB).
The roll out of training in the dzongkhags will be conducted from second week of October-to-end of October and the assessment and certification of hotels and tourist standard restaurants will be conducted in November this year.
Meanwhile, for the tour operators and tourist guides, an online training will be conducted in mid of October and only those participants securing a certain percentage will be certified as “clean and safe” and be eligible to cater to the tourists.