Swimming pools run dry of clients during winter

People prefer to stay indoors throughout the cold winter season

JAMYANG CHOPHEL | Thimphu

Swimming pools in the country are struggling to draw clients as the mercury continues to dip.

People frequent swimming pools during their free time in the summer to cool off and combat the heat. However, people like staying indoors throughout the cold winter season.

It has been five months since Tshering Dorji, the proprietor of Menchu Swimming Pool in Trashigang Dzongkhag, began operations. He is the first individual to launch a pool business in the district.

Although he stated that less people visited the pool during those months as a result of the Dzongkhag’s decreased population, he claimed that there weren’t many clients during the cold months.

Students, monks, and other government employees who work in various gewogs in the Dzongkhag make up the majority of the clients. Additionally, he claims that he was forced to shut down his business as of October due to the impending cold.

He claims that it is impossible to heat the water since the cost of purchasing the necessary equipment is very expensive.

“I had contacted a Chinese company, but the estimated cost is about Nu 2 million. Therefore, getting a water heater will incur huge additional costs,” he said.

Even if the water heater is installed, customers might not be able to pay the charge, according to Tshering, as most people in this Dzongkhag are not as affluent as those in other Dzongkhags.

The majority of Thimphu’s hot-water pools are found in large hotels. They charge adults about Nu 1,500 and kids about Nu 1,000.

However, it is challenging business to charge even Nu 400–500 in Trashigang. While people in remote places spend their time doing other things, they have no interest in going to amusement parks or swimming pools, according to Tshering.

In addition, he said there are many things that need to be planned and done. Tshering Dorji learned that three additional people had filed their proposals to start a pool company when he went to inquire at the Dzongkhag Administration.

He said that his pool is six kilometers from the town, whereas the new pools will be built close to Trashigang town. Tshering added that it would be challenging to repay his debts if several pool businesses opened in the same Dzongkhag.

“Any type of business is difficult to manage in the winter when it has to be shut down for four to five months, but I believe it will be simpler in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Paro, and Gelephu. While in Trashigang Dzongkhag is it challenging with a small residential population,” he said.

He calls on the government to carefully analyze all business ideas because similar enterprises are concentrated in one area, making it challenging for owners to repay their loans since most businesses thrive on loans.

Most people set up futsal courts for their businesses, he says, relating this issue to the futsal industry. Previously, there were just a few futsal businesses, but currently, 4-5 more courts are expected to be built.

Similar to this, Tsheten Lhamo, owner of the Pool Cafe in Gelephu, said that clients are critical to keep her business afloat. Together with the covid-19 pandemic, Tsheten and her spouse launched their company in 2020. After three months of operation, the pandemic forced them to close their firm.

She said, “Owning a swimming pool is usually difficult and requires a lot of maintenance.”  Tsheten thinks that people should always upgrade the menus and keep the swimming pool water clean regardless of the season.

Gelephu Pool Care Services, which Tsheten Lhamo also founded, specializes in water filtration, circulation, and other pool-related services. She also stated that she had ambitious plans but that they were unable to operate their business because of the pandemic.

Likewise, Kinley Wangdi, the owner of the Minjur Pelri hotel in Gelephu, said there were few visitors in the months of July through October, but lately as the season has changed, there have been less visitors or none at all due to the cold weather.