Spotlight on the East and South

DoT comes with five themes for action

9521 tourists visited Bhutan between January 1 and February 26 this year

Even as the department of tourism (DoT) is working relentlessly to bring more tourists into Bhutan, just 9,521 tourists visited Bhutan between January 1 and February 26, 2024.  Of this, 6,182 were Indian tourists and 3,339 from other countries. Though the task may appear daunting the DoT says it is prepared to bring in 300,000 tourists a year. DoT has also categorized five themes for action. The final recommendations will be made by the core committee

“The Department is very prepared and we have also developed an action plan to increase annual tourist arrival to 300,000. However, the Department is also dependent on other factors like enhancing air connectivity, improving payment gateway systems, enhancing systems and processes for tourists to plan their trip and also enter Bhutan, among other things,” Director General of DoT, Dorji Dhradhul said.

He added that the final recommendations will be made by the core committee. “From our side, various actions areas were identified which needed the support of the Government and other stakeholders to increase tourist arrival number,” he added. DoT has categorized the areas of action under five themes: Policy and regulatory frameworks, accessibility and connectivity, marketing and promotion, processes and systems and destination development and management.

Additionally, the DoT has come up with marketing and promotion activities to promote Bhutan. It includes promoting through the public relations (PR) and sales representatives in the key source markets, use of the press , key opinion leaders, and influencers. Destination training and awareness webinars are held and regular newsletter and press releases published to highlight attractions, events, and experiences.

DoT is also working with the industry partners on inviting international tour operators on FAM trips, participate in top events, joint marketing agreements, and organizing Bhutan Believe events.

“We run digital marketing campaigns and engage in aggressive social media promotion, while producing creative content and visuals. We are also promoting Bhutan as MICE, wellness, and wedding destination,” Dorji said.

Embassies, Missions and Consulate offices of Bhutan around the world are also engaged. “The engagement of the HPM in promotion initiatives will be a real game changer,” the DG added.

On questions about the sustainable development fee (SDF), he said that having a reliable, consistent, and dependable tourism policy is paramount for effectively promoting and showcasing a destination. “However, it may be equally crucial to remain dynamic and adaptable to evolving circumstances,” he added.

Meanwhile, reflecting on people’s views that more guests would mean more litter, Dorji said he feels uncomfortable in directly correlating increased waste and litter with a surge in guest arrivals. “Isn’t it a natural consequence that more people result in more waste? However, the crux of the matter lies not in the volume of waste alone, but rather in our ability to effectively manage it. Our challenge, therefore, is to establish robust waste management systems,” he added.

The DG added that drawing from experiences thus far, it has become evident that a sustainable solution hinges on two key principles:” firstly, each Bhutanese taking responsibility for their own waste, and secondly, to influence those among us who are less mindful about waste management practices.”

“We must recognize our pivotal role as game-changers in this narrative. This entails stepping up efforts to raise awareness and taking decisive actions to curb littering habits while also refining our waste management practices,” he underlined.

DoT’s DG also added that it is inspiring to witness numerous guests, tour guides, and various individuals and groups who demonstrate a profound understanding of waste management challenges and actively engage in addressing them. “Their conscientious efforts, often conveyed through shared images and concerns about litter, highlight the urgency of our collective action,” he said, while calling for a united commitment to safeguard Bhutan’s environment for the prosperity of future generations.

By Sherab Dorji, Thimphu