Taking Tourism To The Top – Conference Addressed Issues And Steps To Promote Bhutan As A Top Tourist Destination

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The Lyonchhen said that the government was committed to taking tourism to the ‘top’, in alignment with the theme of the conference.

The 1st National Tourism Conference held from Feb 27-28, 2019. (Source: Tourism Council of Bhutan)

 

By Dechen Tshomo | Kuensel

To assess where Bhutan is lacking in terms of promoting the Kingdom as a tourist destination, the government will start a flagship programme on tourism, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said at the national tourism conference on 27 February.

Over 100 people attended the first day of the conference. The Tourism Council of Bhutan’s Director General, Dorji Dradhul said the conference was held for all individuals and agencies to network and to work together.

One of the aim was also to take stock of the relevant questions and answers in order to take tourism to the ‘top’.

 

Photo: Kuensel

 

He explained that the theme of the conference 'Taking Tourism to the Top' - can be interpreted in two ways, making tourism number one in terms of generating revenue for the country or to make Bhutan the ‘number one’ tourist destination in the world.

Objectives of the conference

“With this flagship programme, it is not just to talk about the industry, not just to promote ourselves but to see where we are lacking,” the Lyonchhen said.

 

Photo: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2017

 

“It is to see how we can even out the differences between different dzongkhags; make all 12 months a season for tourists to visit Bhutan, how all industries must be benefitting and how the Bhutanese economy should be benefitting because we just cannot keep banking on hydropower. We all know how susceptible that can be,” he explained.

The Lyonchhen said that the government was committed to taking tourism to the ‘top’, in alignment with the theme of the conference. The government, he said, has already started working on it.

Rationale for handing over the Tourism Council’s chairmanship to Bhutan’s Foreign Minister

The initial step was to hand over the Tourism Council’s chairmanship to the Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji. This decision, the Lyonchhen said, was based on a few factors.

By 2023, Bhutan will graduate from the ‘least developed countries’ category and it will be entering the ‘developing countries’ category.

“With that, we must also change our mindset and we must change the way we do our businesses”.

 

 

Photo: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2017

 

The Foreign Minister will be the best person to lead this industry because through him, we could chip in Bhutanese foreign policy into tourism,” he said.

“We can rope in all of Bhutan’s embassies to work as ambassadors for the industry.”

He urged the participants to raise issues and to support the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to see whether the sector could really take tourism to the top.

“We just cannot keep talking about it, we must try to work on it.”

Plans in the pipeline to propel the tourism sector to the ‘top’ in the next five years

In the next five years, the Lyonchhen assured that tourism would get a lot of attention. With a change in leadership at the TCB as well as a change in governance, he said that tourism should receive what it deserves.

 

Photo: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2017

 

The Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji said tourism contributes immensely to the economy and is second to hydropower in terms of generating revenue but it is actually the top generator of employment.

According to the TCB, the tourism industry employed 27,000 people as of 2017.

Given that unemployment is one of the biggest problems that Bhutan faces, specifically youth unemployment, he said that for any government, tackling this issue would be one of the biggest challenges.

Acknowledging and working on the challenges that the tourism sector faces in Bhutan

“Tourism is one of the answers to this challenge that we are facing.”

 

Bhutan's vibrant and colourful tshechus (festivals) are top draws for tourists.

Photo: Daphne Go/Druk Asia

 

Tourism has come a long way and despite its success, he said that there are many challenges which still exist in the sector.

“We know that we don’t have a comprehensive tourism policy and coordination between different sectors. Besides that, there are also problems faced by the individual sectors,” the Lyonpo said.

“On the part of the government, we are here to facilitate and support the growth of this important sector, so be reassured that we will take all the recommendations made during this conference seriously,” he said.

 

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

 


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