Tourist guides demand insurance
In a medley of issues thrashed out during a routine meeting of tour guides at Guides Association of Bhutan’s conference hall saw the guides voicing out to demand employee life insurance from their employers.
The guides suggested that GAB should take the lead in bringing this employee benefit supported by Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO).
An experienced tour guide, Sonam, said that a tour guide has to often take risk while being hired to go on challeng- ing tours which entail climbing difficult terrains and cliffs, crossing rivers and dense forests, and sometimes having to fight harsh climatic conditions.
“While I do agree that we have to go through extreme conditions while on the tour, the fact that we are constantly travelling also puts our lives into danger. Who knows we might die from a road accident,” said Chencho who is a tour guide. “So yes, we need to be insured while on duty.”
For TCB, the matter seems to be more of an issue between the tour guides and the tour operator. “It is the duty of the tour operator and the tour guides to discuss and mutually solve this issue” a TCB official said on the conditions of anonymity.
The General Manager of Etho Metho Tours & Treks, Monorath Dhungyel, cracked the issue from the point view of being a permanent guide for a company or a freelancer. He said it will be the duty of the company to insure the guide if they work permanently for the company but freelancer should be responsible for their own life.
Dhungyel also said that compensation given to the freelancer guide is inclusive of all charges on a duty. Otherwise, if a company has to insure them then they might have to cut down their claims.
One of the freelancer guides, Norbu Wangchuk, added more to build on the issue of insurance. He said that besides life insurance tour companies should also provide them pension.
But the issue raised by the tourist guide might hold water since The Regulations on Working Condition 2012, enacted by Ministry of Labour & Human Resources mandates that an “employer shall insure his or her employee with an authorized insurer to ensure that all types and level of compensation… are covered by an insurance policy”.
The tour operator, Atlas Tour & Travels, said that as of now they haven’t experienced any such cases but would be good lesson for them. However, they were little skeptical when it came to company payng insurance premiums on behalf of the guides.
Sonam, a freelancer guide, said that travel agencies should insure the guides’ lives because tourist guides take risk to ensure the safety of tourists once they are in Bhutan and that most of the works of taking around the tourists are done by the guides. He said, for that they deserve it.