Bhutan has long been a highlight of travel in Asia. So it makes sense that efforts are underway to improve the quality of tourism in the country. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) says it wants to take the status quo shimmering “to the top”.
But while the dialogues are centered on new tourism products, which is a good thing and long time coming, we believe that one of the best ways for TCB and the government would be to start by working at the foundation first. By that we mean improving the basic infrastructure.
A great way to begin would be to build adequate and functioning toilets along the trekking trails. Stories have abounded for a long time about how tourist campsites filled with human feces. High time we address this embarrassing issue. After decades of repeated pleas from the guides and feedback from the tourists, a toilet was finally built at the base of the Taktsang about a year ago, which is a good sign. There are a few along the highways.
Next would be to install adequate and operational garbage bins along these trekking routes. For a nation that proudly maintains the image of a clean and environment-loving populace, the sight of litter along the trails and rivers does more than damage the mood of today’s environment-conscious tourists.
The few bins that have been installed, say along the Taktsang trail, is a sad image of decrepit looking cans, smelly and bursting at the seams.
Something as humble as wooden benches to rest on along the trekking routes would be a terrific addition too. Add to that simple wooden shelters for eating purposes and you have a generation of exceedingly grateful tourists. The tradition now, no matter how tired or hungry a tourist is, is to sit on the ground and deal with it come rain or snow, or ants.
The quality of roads is telling of the importance given by a country to the future of its tourism. How our quaint little towns look and feel also depend on the quality of roads coursing through them. Mucky potholes kills the charm of a town no matter how great it maybe in other realms. And we have one too many towns flailing in these conditions.
Most of these ideas are not new. In fact, our tour guides and tourists have been suggesting these measures for decades. You need only go through the feedback pages of the TCB.
Surely TCB and by extension, the government, which depend on tourism for much of its foreign-exchange earnings and accounting for the sizeable share to the nation’s GDP, can do a lot more to develop these basic tourism infrastructure.
Applying a portion of the Nu 1.5B, which the government has allotted to tourism on building these essential facilities will go a long way in actually taking our tourism to the top.