Tourist guides de­mand in­sur­ance

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Sonam Pen­jor

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.

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