Government should liberalize tourism

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    I as a businessman appreciate the initiative taken by the Government to review the tourism policy. Our 25-year-old policy needs to be amended and delivered for the great benefit of the nation.

    The present system restricts tourism in the western region and will remain so if not changed. Tour operators control the flow of tourism and prefer to promote only western region, as logistically and monetarily it’s cheaper to operate tours closer to office.

    The present system restricts growth and innovation. Tour operators keep selling the existing packages and tourists are forced to stay and do the same thing from place to place. No wonder tourists complain of repetitive meals and being “dzonged out” if they stay in the kingdom for more then a week.

    Have we ever wondered why we hardly have repeat clients? The answer is simple, we do not have product diversification and there is nothing to do or see on a second visit. Big tour operators never plan to invest in new products and small tour operators are merely surviving and can’t think beyond the few groups they operate in a year. As long as overseas counter part are happy with the present products and send clients, no big tour operator wants to change the present system.

    Tourism industry employs maximum number of people in the country but Tour Company’s contribution is very little. Today about 70 companies in the country have office and on an average each company employs about 5 people. So, how do we say directly tour companies are benefitting the country.

    With the liberalization rumour in town most big tour operators are worried. Most talk of influx of mass tourism but fail to understand that with our limited infrastructure, manpower and the Government royalty mass tourism in Bhutan is never possible. We should understand that other cost added on the Government royalty still make visiting Bhutan expensive and as long as the Government royalty remains we will still remain as expensive country to visit.

    If the Government liberalizes tourism, slowly most tour operators will specialize. Specialization will lead to spreading of tour operators to different regions in the country. For instance, some might become Merak sakteng specialist. So, for any tourists visiting merak sakteng it would be better using their service then someone based in Thimphu as they are in the centre of action.

    Understanding comes through education and it will take a long time before we understand. Most of us(tour operators) started as guides after dropping out of high school and are fortunate to be tour operators (almost 70% were guides) today. How will we understand market forces that drive a business and how will we understand long-term policies of the Government. We are just comfortable with our old system that needs hardly any thinking and innovation.



    Very nice read. But to me as an outsider, it always boils down to necessary infrastructure. Why is there no public restrooms (toilets) in Bhutan? The one I remember in Thimphu was so vile that I much preferred holding it in until I got back to my hotel (this is long time ago). I was in Bhutan a couple of years ago and there are renewed enthusiasm for erecting new buildings, but not much has improved in almost all areas that matter to tourists. As it had been discussed elsewhere, the road condition is below standard, well if you don’t consider certain parts of India. I could go on, but if people in the business of dealing with tourism doesn’t get their act together along with the nation, liberalizing would have far greater negative impact in the long run.

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