Drafting a tourism gateway to Bhutan

The development and enhancement of tourism products and experiences will be further enriched with the introduction of a comprehensive draft tourism masterplan. The masterplan, according to the State of The Nation (SoTN) report presented by the Prime Minister (PM) to the parliament on Friday, has been developed to offer an overarching vision, guidance and development framework for local and national tourism stakeholders.

The report highlighted the development of a curriculum for specialized training of tour guides on mammals, birds, plants, butterflies and photography. The aggregate of these five specialized areas will result in accreditation of national certificate (NC) 3 certificates.

In addition, with technical support from Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB), field testing and standard development will be done for the checklist and criteria for green certification and assessment of accommodations.

The report further stated that seven guides have received training and certification as master trainers, and sixteen guides have received training and certification as fishing guides for upscale recreational fishing.

Efforts have been undertaken to assess and validate the readiness of tourism service providers for tourism reopening. The report highlights the validation of 367 star rated hotels (ranging from one-star to five-star hotels) and 120 home-stays so far.

Further,  913 tour operators and 1,722 tour guides were validated including 19 tourist standard restaurants and assessment and certification of one-star and two-star hotels has been decentralized to the Dzongkhags. 

The SoTN report also highlights about a multifaceted marketing approach where the approach was employed to highlight the distinctiveness of Bhutan and attract visitors, encompassing a diverse range of marketing methods.

The method includes digital advertising, implementation of brand initiatives such as ‘Bhutan Believe,’ active participation in events, promotions during festivals, presence of sales representatives, and partnerships with influencers and high-end travel networks, amongst others.

The renewed vision for tourism will centre on the enhancement of sustainable development policies, infrastructure and services upgrades, and the elevation of the guests’ experiences.

The long-term plan will focus on various approaches to promote sustainable tourism growth. The approaches include creating a positive environment that nurtures growth in tourism, diversifying and enhancing tourism experiences, tourism service delivery amongst others.

The long-term tourism plan also includes strategic marketing, branding and communication that promotes and positions Bhutan globally, in line with Bhutan’s vision of high-impact, low-volume.

One of the strategies reiterated in the report is to return visitor numbers to pre-pandemic levels as soon as feasible, while simultaneously emphasizing the benefits that visitors provide to Bhutan.

Meanwhile, by improving services and infrastructure with relevant government and private agencies, the plan will also ensure Bhutan as a high-end and inclusive destination and position Bhutan as one of the top global sustainable destinations.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu