National Tourism Policy To Be Implemented By July 2020: Tourism Council Of Bhutan

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Promoting ‘High value and low volume’ tourism has been Bhutan’s policy for the last 50 years.

(Source: David Lazar)

 

By Dechen Tshomo| Kuensel

Bhutan is expected to have a national tourism policy implemented by July next year; and the final draft of the policy is slated to be ready by December 2019.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB)’s Director-General, Dorji Dhradhul made this announcement during the signing of the TCB’s annual performance agreement (APA) with Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering on 8 August.  

The draft policy will be presented to the second tourism council meeting scheduled on 21 August. Dorji Dhradhul said that the council is hoping that the draft policy will be finalised, approved and implemented within this fiscal year.

“This is one of our top priority activities in this current APA. By the end of this APA period, our tourism policy should be in action.”

Promoting Bhutan as a ‘High value and low volume’ destination

Promoting ‘High value and low volume’ tourism has been Bhutan’s policy for the last 50 years.

 

Source: Druk Asia

 

“This has been our guiding policy statement. Now what we are trying to do is, keeping this as an overarching policy guideline, we are going to detail out the policy for the next 10 to 20 years.”

The regional (tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives) and seasonal spread of tourism is one of the three key objectives of TCB’s APA.

“We will target to have regional balance and seasonal spread of tourist throughout the year.”

Dorji Dhradhul said that currently, only about five dzongkhags (districts) receive tourists and the rest of the dzongkhags are not really covered.

“This is what we will be trying to address. To take tourists to the places that don’t receive many visitors, we are trying to create new tourism products,” he added.

TCB’s APA this fiscal year includes conducting festivals in some of the dzongkhags that receive the least tourists such as the Zorig Chusum festival in Trashiyangtse and the Bird Festival in Zhemgang.

Promoting homestays as an alternative mode of accommodation in Bhutan

Other activities include supporting alternative modes of accommodations such as homestays.

“Except for the five dzongkhags, some places don’t have accommodation facilities. Even if we take tourist to these places, they don’t have a place to stay unless they stay in tents.”

In response to this situation, the TCB’s APA includes supporting about 30 to 40 homestays in dzongkhags where they receive the least number of tourists.

The aspiration to make Bhutan the number one tourist destination is another objective that guides the indicators in the APA this fiscal year. This means that any services which visitors experience should be ‘exclusive’, he explained.

 

Scene of a homestay with Bhutanese hosts.

Photo: Druk Asia

 

According to TCB’s visitors’ exit survey, the satisfaction level of tourists is between 80 to 90 percent.

“We hope to increase this to 100 percent.”

Facilities to be developed

This, he said would be done basically through providing improved services and amenities. The TCB has been allocated Nu 200 billion for development this fiscal year.

The council targets to construct a total of 18 roadside amenities, including nine along the highways across the country this fiscal year.

Dorji Dhradhul said that the locations will be selected in such a way that it will work in tandem with other facilities such as electric vehicle recharging station.

“We will also have a small convenient shop along with toilet facilities.”

Spreading the benefits from tourism across the population is the third major objective the TCB is trying to address in this APA.

 
Graphic: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2018

 

With the signing of the agreement, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that this is just the start of the work.

Talking about issues in tourism, the Lyonchhen said that while many people may regard undercutting as a major issue, it might actually not be a major one.

“The undercutting issue could be because of a lack of proper monitoring.”

If a good monitoring system and a proper policy exist, undercutting should not be a problem at all, the Lyonchhen added.

“Undercutting is an indirect indication that we don’t have a good monitoring system in place.”

The Lyonchhen said that the focus should be on the standard of services provided such as: the standard of the hotels, the minimum standard of the vehicle that a tourist should be travelling in and a minimum amount of money paid to guides.

At the end of the year, when the TCB shows its results, the Lyonchhen asked the TCB to not focus only on the number of visitors, but also on the quality of the visitors.

 

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 


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