Lack of roadside amenities is a challenge we have been facing a long time. For Bhutanese travellers and tourists alike, it is a difficult and unpleasant travel experience. So we commend Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) for stepping up to construct additional roadside amenities, especially restrooms along the major highways.
The construction of roadside amenities at Dobji Dzong in Paro, Yotongla in Trongsa, and at the immigration checkpoint in Hongtsho in Thimphu, which will begin next year, is part of TCB’s plan to develop eighteen restrooms by the end of 2018.
Sixteen roadside amenities were constructed across the country since 2013. But many do not seem to serve their purpose. Some have become completely unusable. Because lack of such facilities affect all road users, there is a need for more roadside amenities along the Bhutanese roads. More importantly, they should be well taken care of. This has been among the recommendations that tour guides and tourists have been making frequently. They say that while most of the existing restroom facilities are reported to be in good condition, some like the ones in Thangthangkha in Paro and Jangothang in Thimphu are not. Tourists have to run to the nearest bush in times of emergency.
Such amenities are critically important for promotion of tourism in the country. Prime Minister made it clear when he urged government agencies and the private sector to take the initiatives to maintain the toilets, for which the government was willing to provide support. He said, “If no one is interested, I’ll have to take the initiative myself.” Restrooms in particular are the key components of a major tourism destination and they should be constructed at a reasonable distance from each other. Otherwise, the very purpose of these roadside amenities will be defeated.
The real challenge today seems to be the maintenance of roadside amenities. If clear coordination is worked out among the different agencies, it should not be a difficult problem. Such facilities also create employment opportunities. Before all else, though, we should be responsible users of such facilities. We just cannot expect somebody to construct convenient roadside facilities and ignore our roles as users.