Residents in Samdrup Jongkhar town banking on border reopening to revive business

Despite lifting almost all COVID restrictions, business is yet to pick pace in Samdrup Jongkhar town. The residents are now banking on the border reopening to revive their businesses. The government’s announcement to reopen borders in September has brought some excitement to the town’s residents.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan in June announced to reopen borders on September 23 with a renewed focus on tourism and sustainability.

With not many people visiting the district, businesses are struggling to stay afloat in Samdrup Jongkhar town. However, the announcement of the reopening of border gates has come as good news to the business owners.

“We can have visitors from Guwahati if the gate is opened. And the business will go well. Currently, although inter-dzongkhag movement is allowed, not many people visit the town unlike in the past,” said Ugyen Dorji, a restauranteur.

“Business is not picking up. We hardly get any customers. I thought after lifting the COVID-19 restrictions, businesses would prosper like before. But it hasn’t. All of us are now banking on the reopening of border gates,” said Jigme, another restauranteur.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the reopening of the border gates, the thromde administration is planning to promote tourism in the district by making Samdrup Jongkhar thromde a clean, green and livable town.

“Our responsibility is to provide enough water to the hoteliers. So, for that, we will supply water. We are also maintaining roads, footpaths and parks like recreational and riverfront parks,” said Samdrup Jongkhar Thrompon, Thinley Namgay.

Although it is considered the commercial hub in the east, Samdrup Jongkhar town has not seen many economic activities since the country closed its border gates in March 2020. But on the brighter side, things are expected to change.

The government announced that Samdrup Jongkhar will become one of the entry points for tourists when Bhutan reopens tourism. This is expected to bring about the much-needed boost to revive the town’s dying businesses.

Kinley Wangchuk, Samdrup Jongkhar     

Edited by Sonam Pem & Phub Gyem

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