Bhutan is expected to have a national tourism policy and have it implemented by July next year.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB)’s director-general, Dorji Dhradhul, during the signing of the TCB’s annual performance agreement (APA) with Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday, said that the final draft of the policy would be readied by December this year.
The draft policy would be presented to the second tourism council meeting scheduled on August 21.
Dorji Dhradhul said the council is hoping that the draft policy would 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.”
High value and low volume, he said has been the country’s tourism policy for the last 50 years. “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 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 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 much visitors, we are trying to create new tourism products,” he said.
TCB’s APA this fiscal year includes conducting festivals in some of the dzongkhags that receive the least tourists like the Zorig Chusum festival in Trashiyangtse and bird festival in Zhemgang.
Other activities include supporting accommodations like 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.”
Therefore, 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 the other objective that guides the indicators in the APA this fiscal year. This means any services visitors’ experience should be exclusive, he said.
According to TCB’s visitors’ exit survey, the satisfaction level of the tourists is between 80 to 90 percent. “We hope to increase this to 100 percent.”
This, he said basically would be done through providing improved services and amenities.
The council targets to construct a total of 18 roadside amenities, including nine along the highways across the country in this fiscal year.
Dorji Dhradhul said that the location would be selected in such a way that it will be in combination with other facilities like electric vehicle recharging station. “We will have a small convenient shop along with toilet facility.”
Spreading the benefits from tourism across the population is the third major objective the TCB is trying to address in this APA.
With the signing of the agreement, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that this is the start of the work.
Talking about issues in tourism, Lyonchhen said that while many take undercutting as a major issue, it might not be a major one. “Undercutting issue could be because of a lack of proper monitoring.”
If there are a good monitoring system and a proper policy, undercutting should not be a problem at all, Lyonchhen said. “Undercutting is an indirect indication that we don’t have a good monitoring system in place.”
Lyonchhen said that the focus should be on the standard of services provided like 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 the guides, among others.
At the end of the year, when TCB shows its results, Lyonchhen asked TCB to not focus only on the number of the visitors, but on the quality of the visitors.
TCB has been allocated Nu 200 billion for this fiscal year.