An exploration of social networks in homestays: A case study of Bhutan

Phenden Gyamtsho

Research output: ThesisMasters Thesis

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Limited studies have been conducted to investigate homestays in Bhutan, and therefore little is known of how these homestays operate and the challenges they face. This study aimed to address this limitation by focussing on a Bhutanese case study, addressing three broad research questions: i What are the benefits and challenges from homestay operations to local communities? ii. How do networks influence the functioning of homestays? and iii. How has COVID-19 influenced the network of homestays? The study followed an interpretivist approach, generating qualitative data through in-depth semi-structured interviews. Four categories of participants (key informants, homestay households, non-homestay households, and uncertified homestays) were involved. Forty-six interviews were undertaken via online platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp, Messenger, and emails due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The research revealed that tour operators and national tour guides were key entities within the social network for homestay households to access guests. Relationships with local hotels and among homestay households have also supported access to homestay guests. Among the entities in the homestay network, maintaining connections and relationships with national tour guides was perceived to be the most important, followed by tour operators. Homestay operations have benefitted homestay households economically as the supplementary household income and aided in preserving local culture, enhancing sanitation, and augmenting social cohesion in the community. The opportunity to operate homestays relied on the financial capacity of interested households in the community as the start-up of homestay costs was significantly high. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened the networks with external entities, it has strengthened internal connections within the community and thus, changed the dynamics of networks. Therefore, the study builds on the limited information about homestays, which may allow the concerned authorities in Bhutan to develop feasible interventions to address the prevailing challenges of homestay operations. The empirical findings may also be useful to other regions with similar cultural and geographical contexts, although it may not qualify to generalise to the global context.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Bond, Jen, Principal Supervisor
  • Lewis, Cliff, Co-Supervisor
  • Black, Rosemary, Co-Supervisor
Award date07 Jul 2022
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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