Govt. to spend Nu 111mn on beautification of tourism hotspots till December

People in tourism affected by the pandemic have been engaged in beautifying tourism hotspots around 14 sites, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji.

“The government is spending Nu 111mn on beautification till December where 600 laid off employees from tourism are engaged,” he said.

He added that between March and June, the government spent Nu 102mn employing around 1,151 tourism employees to beautify tourism hotspots, building toilets, and in cleaning campaign.

“The tourism sector employees are also engaged in up skilling programs such as foreign language courses for guides, and culinary training for cooks and chefs at the Royal Institute for Tourism and Hospitality among others,” Lyonpo said.

According to Lyonpo, last year, around 200,900 tourists visited the country contributing revenue of US$ 225mn.  Only 28,000 tourists visited the country generating US$ 19mn in revenue this year.

“There are 50,737 individuals solely dependent on tourism for livelihood and 28,159 are kidu recipients. So far, the government has spent Nu 289mn on hotels used for quarantine,” he added.

However, Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji was asked about the progress on the policy and how TCB was handling the COVID-19 situation, new strategies and plan to recover, during the question-hour session at the National Assembly (NA).

Lyonpo said that TCB had proposed to open the country to tourism by March next year but the decision would solely depend on the situation. “With the adoption of tourism policy it would strengthen the principle of ‘high-value, low volume’ and the sector would grow stronger.”

According to Lyonpo, some of TCB’s initiatives for the recovery of the sector are boosting eco-tourism, plan on year-round tourism, promotion of Brand Bhutan, and improving tourism sites, and regional balance of tourism.

Lyonpo highlighted that the government anticipates that the COVID-19 situation will have a lasting effect on world economy until next year or more.

“People who have lost their jobs abroad and have returned home may not be able to go back the respective countries of work any time soon. So, the government wants to help those individuals who would like to stay back in the country,” said Lyonpo.

While phasing out some of the plans in place for the 12th FYP, Lyonpo said it is time to fill in the gaps left by the imported workforce in beautifying tourism hotspots around 14 sites.

He added that the prominent sectors under consideration are construction, agriculture, waste management, roads, and renovation and beautification works along the tourism hotspots as there are no visitors at present.

Lyonpo added that those interested in taking part to serve the nation can do so by developing the road from Trashigang to Haa, building more toilets along the tourism hotspots, beautification of Taktshang route and others like helping the government to control the dog population.

“There are many plans under the 12th FYP that will require as much manpower as possible in these times,” he said, adding the authorities will consider giving encouraging fees, material support and also training and a uniform-to-work system.

He expressed gratitude towards His Majesty’s Kidu efforts that also covers the section of the Bhutanese who have come back home from abroad.

Lyonpo also pointed out the fact that there are scope and possibilities for individuals who have innovative entrepreneurship ideas. “Under the Department of Cottage and Small Industry powered by the CSI flagship, there are loans at interest rates as low as 2-4%, and further if the businesses has scope of expansion and becoming multi-national companies, the government will provide further assistance.”

Meanwhile, with Druk Neykor, around 108 pilgrimage destinations are recorded. A recognition certificate would be given to persons on completion of the pilgrimage, Lyonpo said.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu