Bhutan Tourism: A Call for Collective Efforts

Are we experimenting? Hopefully not! We are trying to address an issue that is being spoken and discussed just like Bhutanese moving to Australia. We are talking about the Tourism policy, discussions held and adjustments made.

While many attribute the decrease in tourists to the increase in Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), it is crucial to acknowledge that the growth of the tourism industry relies on the collective efforts of all sectors involved. While the Department of Tourism shoulders the responsibility of overseeing matters related to tourism, it is imperative to understand that the prosperity of this industry necessitates collaboration across all aspects of life.

Tourism cannot thrive through the efforts of the Department of Tourism alone; it requires the joint endeavors and cooperation of all sectors. Interactions with tourists reveal that their concerns lie not solely with the increased SDF, but rather with the quality of services provided in the country. Although nature enthusiasts are willing to pay the SDF of $200, captivated by Bhutan’s serene environmental beauty, inconveniences such as non-functioning credit card machines and limited acceptance of credit cards frustrate visitors.

International travelers prefer to use credit cards, and the limited availability and malfunctioning of credit card machines hinder their spending capacity in the country. This inconvenience remains as a black mark in their Bhutanese experience. Bhutan’s wonders are forgotten. In this regard, easy access to financial services and credit card facilities for tourists should be considered by financial institutes and agencies involved.

In what is an embarrassment for Bhutanese, we are yet to have good wash rooms along our roads. Though some have come up in recent times, a lot needs to be done in this area. Guides cannot say that using nature to relieve themselves is a tourism product.

To attract more guests, the introduction of additional flight routes connecting countries from where most tourists come is important. International airports such as Dubai, Japan, and various European cities would be highly beneficial. Once again, this highlights the need for collective effort.

An inconsistency observed by visitors is the prevalence of single-use plastic bags, water bottles, and litter, which contradicts Bhutan’s positioning as a clean, green, and carbon-neutral destination. Restaurants and hotels serving single-use plastic bottles and trails littered with plastic and rubbish undermine the country’s environmental image.

For substantial and effective changes to occur in the tourism industry, it is imperative that all industries and sectors collaborate to enhance the experiences of guests. Recognizing the interconnectivity of various aspects, concerted efforts are needed to address concerns related to services, flight accessibility, plastic usage, and overall sustainability. Only through collective endeavors can Bhutan fulfill its potential as an exceptional and unforgettable destination for travelers worldwide.

Working in silos has been one of our weaknesses. Due to this, we see the poor roads of Thimphu dug by one agency today and by another later. Similarly, stakeholders of the tourism and hospitality industry need to come together, not to point fingers at one another, but to learn what each can contribute to the larger cause.

Are we doing this?