HTMT Institute

The construction of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Training Institute is finally making progress.

The institute, located in 16 acres of sprawling property in Motithang, is estimated to cost Nu 385 million. That’s a lot of money to convert what had earlier been used as the Youth Center and, before that, as a government hotel to a training institute.

And that’s a lot of money to train only 50 people a year.

The good news is that once the institute is in full operation it would offer two-year courses in tourism and hospitality leading to diplomas that may be offered jointly with the International Tourism and Hospitality School in Salzberg. We could, therefore, expect the graduates of the HTMTI to be equal to the best in the world. That is indeed very good news.

The tourism and hospitality sector – our country’s largest foreign currency earner and, more importantly, biggest employer outside agriculture – is growing rapidly and demands increasing numbers of skilled professionals. This demand is expected to be met though the HTMTI.

The bad news is I can’t see most of these graduates, well trained and armed with diplomas, employed in local hotels. Most of our hotels are self managed and the growing demand for workers is for skilled workers, not managers.

So unless are aim is to train people for export – to Austria, for example – we need to do a serious review of the institute’s proposed training program.

Start such a review by consulting hoteliers themselves: Ugyen Wangchuk, the proprietor of Jumolhari Boutique Hotel and Chairperson of the Hoteliers Association, says that he expects the current shortage of skilled workers in the hotel industry to reach serious proportions. However, he claims that most of the demand is for semi-skilled workers (receptionists, bell boys, waiters, housekeepers, cleaners, assistant cooks, etc., ) and not the managerial level people that would be produced by HTMTI.

Then consult the experts: my friend in the Tourism Council of Bhutan, a specialist in tourism and hospitality, is already concerned about the relevance of the proposed courses at HTMTI. My friend feels that short, focused training in a range of skill areas would be more effective and relevant for our country, not a two-year management course.

The institute was first proposed in 2001, construction began only in 2007 and I don’t see it being ready before 2010. We’ve waited too long. Let’s not create another white elephant.