The need for clear communication

Despite spending a majority of their tenure fighting the COVID 19 pandemic, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) government made several decisions, which could affect them in the upcoming general elections. From closing Drayangs to increasing the sustainable development fee (SDF) to USD 200 per day, bold moves were taken.  

However, in what critics say is “a 180-degree turn”, the government recently introduced another incentive to bring in tourists; a generous fifty percent reduction to the current SDF of USD 200 for tourists using USD when visiting Bhutan and a fifty percent discount on the SDF to children aged between 6 and 12 years who are visiting Bhutan as paying tourists. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment’s announcement states that the government would conduct periodic assessments of the domestic and international tourism scenarios and may discontinue the above incentives to uphold and promote the High-Value Low Volume Tourism Policy after August 31, 2027.

Making a policy soup is not an easy task. While governments may aim for a soup everyone would like, it could fall short of their intended goals or even backfire completely. Further, policy changes frequently have side effects or unintended consequences that may lead to negative results. Just few months back, the government had adopted the Sunset Clause and introduced incentives.

It would be wrong to say that the government suddenly decided over a cup of coffee to introduce the new incentives. However, they could have waited for some time and assessed if the earlier incentive yielded results. When decisions are made in haste, fingers are pointed; it is a political ploy as elections are nearing; the government is buckling to pressure from interest groups and more.

The other aspect is stakeholder consultation, which was not done even when the SDF was increased to USD 200. The government is not obligated to have these consultations, but there are merits associated. Policy consultation can be used to develop, design, implement, or review policies. It involves government departments or organizations consulting with stakeholders of a policy.

In addition to other benefits, consulting with stakeholders can help show that the government is being transparent and accountable. This helps in building confidence and bolsters trust.

At this juncture, we cannot say confidently what thoughts are running through the cerebral fluids of tourists. But one would definitely be a riddle or puzzle – what is this Himalayan Kingdom trying to do? Some or most may understand that we are doing this to revamp the tourism industry.

Thus, at this stage, it has become very important for all stakeholders to inform the world about this change and the reasons behind it. We should gain their trust. Communication should be clear. We should tell them that they will get the same experience as they would have had by paying USD 200 SDF. Communication or marketing has become very crucial.