Handicraft shops in Paro gear for reopening

Paro Town

About 70 percent of the handicraft shop in Paro went for alternate business due to the pandemic

KARMA CHIMI
Thimphu

After more than a two-year hiatus, handicraft shops in Paro are all hyped on the reopening of borders for international tourist from 23 September this year.

For more than two years, the handicraft business in Paro and across the country has been made to pull down their shutters due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and business has been on a lull ever since.

Some of the handicraft shops in Paro opted for alternate business such as operating as grocery stores, restaurant and cloth shops to keep their incomes flowing.

The owners of various handicraft shops in Paro shared that almost 70 percent of the handicraft shop went for alternate business due to the pandemic.

Jigdrel Handicraft owner, Jigme Tashi said, “My shop remained closed for more than 2 years but now that the borders are opening and the government making Bhutan a high-end tourist destination, we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel and business seems promising and positive for the handicrafts sector after this long hiatus.”

He added that it will not be possible for all handicraft shops to be fully functional in an instant; rather it would take some time for the owners and handicrafts business to be back in its normal phase.

Kinzang Dorji who has transformed his shop into a restaurant says they are going to return to their handicraft business when the border reopens and tourist arrive. “It is pleasant news to hear that borders will be opening very soon and I hope that the situation gets better henceforth.”

Like Kinzang Dorji there are many owners who share the same sentiment and are hopeful of switching back to their old handicraft business.

While it is a positive thing to look forward to, some fear that the flat owners might raise the rents as the pandemic has impacted them as well.

The increase in sustainable development fee (SDF) of USD 65 to USD 200, per person for a night, also worries handicraft entrepreneurs as they feel that it might result in fewer numbers of tourists coming to the country.

Meanwhile, for some they see it as an added advantage as many handicraft shops have switched business to other platforms.

An owner who turned her shop into a café says that it would be difficult to revert to the old business as she has made huge investment while establishing a café.

“We were not sure of the tourism sector in the country will getting back to normalcy. Therefore, I invested on my café business which also caters to locals and I am not too excited about the arrival of tourists in the country”

According to officials of the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan, as of now there are 52 handicrafts shops registered in Paro.