Dogster's trip to Bhutan


Mar 14th, 2008, 04:04 AM
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Dogster's trip to Bhutan

I hope there will be no objection if I exercise a right of reply to the negative trip report posted by the Dogster about his trip to Bhutan.

First, to declare my interest, I am the wife of the owner of Blue Poppy, Choki Dorji, and have helped him to develop the business. I am very proud of what he has achieved and feel that I can't stand by and see his reputation and that of the business damaged by such a negative trip report without the opportunity to respond. I know that there are many prospective clients who were about to book with us and having seen his report have either decided not to go to Bhutan or have decided to go with another tour operator.

Clearly the Dogster had an extreme and adverse reaction, both to his guide but also to the country itself. Whether this was all caused by the guide or other factors as well, I obviously can't say. I love Bhutan, its culture and its people and have had many wonderful experiences there and I did not recognise the country that I know in this report. Regardless of who they choose to travel with, it would be a shame if people allow this one report to put them off visiting the country and seeing it for themselves.

I should also say that 275 people travelled with Blue Poppy to Bhutan last year and the vast majority have been effusive about their experience. Many people say it was the trip of a lifetime and many write personally afterwards to thank Choki for what he arranged for them. Bhutan must take some of the credit, but he works hard to provide a special experience for his clients and I don't recognise the description of him given in the trip report as a smart operator with a website and a mobile phone. Certainly I am sure that the many clients that he takes the trouble to meet personally both in the UK and during the season in Bhutan wouldn't see him that way.

The reason we set up the UK office was to allow us to provide a more efficient and streamlined booking service and to respond to clients' needs in a more effective way than one can from Thimphu with its remoteness, the time difference and the indifferent telecommunications system. But it would be pointless having a system that promised everything in the UK and then didn't deliver on the ground in Bhutan and Choki works hard to ensure a smooth liaison between the two.

Now for the guides - we do employ several full time guides and use them in preference whenever we can. But Bhutan tourism is very seasonal - we had 7 visitors in December, 3 in January, 1 in February and more than 60 arriving in March - no business could survive employing the 20 or 30 guides needed for the season throughout the year with no work for them to do and so we have to use freelance guides on a regular basis. But that is not to say that we just "pick up whichever guide happens to be hanging around in Thimphu at the time". We have a database of tried and trusted guides who have received high praise from past clients and meet the standards we aspire to provide to our clients. If a guide gets negative feedback and we believe it is warranted we won't use them again.

If the Dogster had called Choki on his first day after the drive from Phuntsholing and said he was unhappy with the guide we could have changed him instantly and maybe it would have changed the face of his trip - or maybe not, who can say. However, I have checked the feedback from others who had used that guide previously. One client who is still in regular contact with Choki, so obviously had a favourable experience overall, described both guide and driver as "friendly and helpful". Having read this report we will not use this guide again, but it seems to me unfair that this one negative experience which could have been quickly averted should lead to so much loss of business for Blue Poppy.

The driver the Dogster had is also my favourite driver - I have known him for years and think of him as a friend of the family. He does not speak great English, true, but he is kind, considerate, helpful and nothing is too much for him. Again, I didn't recognise the driver that I know in the Dogster's report.

Much of our business is repeat business and referrals from satisfied clients, so I have no doubt that all those who have already booked for this season and next will not be disappointed. Maybe some of them will post reports to redress the balance too. But it seems that negative reports on forums such as this one hold great sway, whereas positive reports are often written off and perceived as touting, so I felt I needed to respond to put another side to the story. I do not seek to denigrate the Dogster's experience which clearly was what it was to him. But I hope that people will pause to think twice before treating it as gospel without considering a more balanced viewpoint.

This is the first time I have responded to a trip report in this way, so I have no idea how it will be received. Apologies if it is considered bad form, but I felt I had to do it. I am off to Bhutan this weekend for three weeks and will be away from the internet so if there is any follow up required I will respond on my return.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 06:36 AM
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your posts seems is now up to fodorites to judge...
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Mar 14th, 2008, 06:47 AM
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i have to add, after reviewing dogster's comments, that i thought he was balanced in what he said and in his restraint....he took blame for some of his dislikes and for his likes and dislikes, so over-all i thought it was a very balanced and fair assessment from his eyes....that is what this forum is for after all....

to support your statements, may i suggest that satisfied customers need to add some support here...
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Mar 14th, 2008, 07:23 AM
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Thank you for your input. This forum is strengthened by the contributions of many with opposing views. Dogster's report gave his impressions of his experiences. We all understand that any opinion is subjective and need not reflect the experience/opinion of everyone. Your deatiled explanation provides insight to the business side of things. For the most part, we are mere consumers. There is a natural difference of viewpoints. One must learn to ytajke both the good and the bad.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 07:26 AM
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There have been previous reports here of positive experiences with Blue Poppy. Indeed, that may have been a contributing factor to Dogster booking with Blue Poppy.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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Thanks for the balanced and well thought out response.

I believe that eventually, if one travels enough, one will experience trips like the Dogster wrote about. That's just part of life. But I try to do all I can to prevent trips like that coming my way too often.

I rely heavily on guides and so a lot of my feeling for a trip is based on the quality of the guide. I've been with guides like Dogster described, and believe I would have come away with similar sentiments. Now that the guide will no longer be working for your company, I am sure the positive reports of Blue Poppy will continue.

In an aside, I'm not sure how you obtain feedbback on your guides, but frequently companies provide the guide with a form, which is then handed to me to fill out as we ride along side-by-side, which I then return directly to the guide being reviewed. It is unlikely in this situation that comments will be as straightforward as they ought.

So, when people post their opinions on Fodors, they hold more weight wihh me than a company's opinion of their own guides.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 11:32 AM
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I am someone who has read Dogsters report with great interest as I was in the midst of planning a Bhutan trip for Oct this year. I was working with Blue Poppy so the report caused me to think! I even went back & had more communications with an op I had contact with at the start of my planning. I can tell you that the end result is that we have decided to stick with BP. The flights are booked and we are excited!!! I will of course be providing feedback when we get back. Hopefully I will not be regretting our choice. I truely appreciate Dogsters trip report as I think sometimes I learn a lot more from that type of report. He was honest about his experience and that is fantastic. Also thank you Blue Poppy for your feedback here. It is refreshing to have well a response that is unemotional & informative.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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I got a real kick out of Dogster's report but I took it with a grain of salt as its just one (bad) experience, just one opinion. Like others that have commented, it would in no way stop me from doing business with Blue Poppy if I were considering a trip to Bhutan.
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Mar 15th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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about 30+ yrs ago, I met a young man who accompanied tours frm London to the beginning of the tour & then handed them over to the local operators. He said there were occasionally, weather, mechanical, labour & other kinds of problems he had to calm customers about. He said he always noticed that about 90+%of customers would always make the best of any situation and have fun & relax. But inevitably, a small percentage would become angry & start to work the crowd and spread suspicion & resentment and try to create a confrontation or set of demands. I never forgot that and found the it applies to most situations in life.
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Mar 17th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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Oh, and anatole - it's probably best to read the report before putting your two cents worth in.
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