Focus on capital tourism: PM

During the tourism flagship meeting with Prime Minister and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) on Thursday, Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering suggested that TCB develop capital tourism, that is identify new tourist hubs not visited by tourists so far.

Lyonchhen said that if TCB could come up with new tourist spots choosing one particular district, it would be the greatest achievement for them. Lyonchhen cited an example whereby TCB could develop another Bumthang in the country.

“I feel that Zhemgang has potential to develop as another tourists hub in the country,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said that commuting to Zhemgang is terrible and if Zhemgang is to develop into a tourist hub, it must have an express highway till Tingtibi.“TCB should aim for 1,000 visitors in Bumthang and 1500 visitors in Zhemgang  in the next 10 years.”

TCB Director General, Dorji Dhradhul said that some of the key issues are construction of rest room facility at Chelela due to delay in approval process from forest department.

DG also said that major issues are entry and exit of international tourists from Samdrup Jongkhar after December 2019.

“ Since we were not able to get contract recruitment of quality HR, we have to explore the possibility of getting one or two senior level specialists on deputation,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that the approving agency should send someone who has the authority to decide and based on his or her report the office should be able to decide.

Lyonchhen added that TCB should discuss with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) on the HR. “It should also be mentiond that what kind of specialist is required.”  

“My request to TCB right now is to build rest rooms across the country.”

Lyonchhen said that there are two thriving bolero pickup business selling thup at Chelela and it is TCB’s mandate to regularize them. The cabinet, he said, has also received proposal to construct restrooms on the high way.

“TCB can come up with business units like selling fast food where people can have a place to have packed lunch, ATM machines, charging station and drinkable water tap. TCB should be also tone down on counting numbers of tourist arrivals and be more professional,” said Lyonchhen.

The government has approved Integrated Circuit based tourism development and promotion for implementation of Tourism Flagship Program.

The budget for the tourism flagship program is Nu 1.5bn while approved budget for the financial year 2019-20 is Nu 200mn.Budget utilized so far is Nu 10.6mn with an advance of Nu 8.49mn.

Some of the key achievements presented by the TCB are the framing of final draft on tourism policy submitted to Gross National Happiness Commission, village homestays guideline revised and implemented, drafting of safety guideline for horse riding in Paro Taktsang, completion of feasibility study for Bjimichhu ecotourism, and completion and maintenance of restroom in Lungchotse of Sinchula trek.

In 2018, there were 182,895 tourist arrivals and revenue earned was around Nu 59mn. In 2019, there were 208,457 tourist arrivals and revenue earned was around Nu 67mn.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu