Rebuilding a robust tourism sector for the future

Tourism Guidelines to be ready by end of month

According to the DG of TCB, the rules and regulations are a very important part of the act and it should be formed carefully.

Tour operators, hoteliers, and other stakeholders, who have been crying foul over the lack of any proper guidelines specifying the new rules and regulations in the aftermath of the new tourism policy, can now heave a sigh of relief.

According to the Director General (DG), Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Dorji Dhradhuel, the new rules and regulations will be ready by the end of the month.

Additionally, the TCB in collaboration with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), will come up with specific guidelines to prevent people from importing vehicles in the name of tourism.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, several stakeholders of the tourism sector said that even as the country has decided to open by September 23, 2022, the TCB has not issued any new guidelines.

Tour operators mentioned that this has affected proper and clear communication with their clients. One operator even complained that the minister of foreign affairs had earlier said the rules and regulations were almost ready.

“There is still nothing. We need this to make our plans accordingly,” he said.

He also added that they had approached concerned agencies to involve them in the framing of the new rules and regulations. “We received no replies,” he said, underlining that they are completely in the dark.

Similarly, Lyonpo Dr.Tandi Dorji of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that the draft rules and regulations from the TCB had yet to reach the cabinet and that they would be released only after the cabinet receives it.

However, DG Dorji Dhradhuel, underlined that the rules and regulations of the new act are very important and must be thoroughly studied as the issues at stake are not only about the increase in Sustainable Development Fee (SDF).

He said the new rules and regulations in 2022 will include everything under the purview of the new tourism system.

“Currently, we are almost done with the formation of rules and regulations and we are in the process of meeting all the tourism stakeholders. Therefore we will be able to submit it to the cabinet by the end of this month,” he said, adding that time was taken as every relevant rule that concerned tourism has been included in the new rules and regulations.

Though the TCB has yet to consult tour operators, a tour operator mentioned that if the rules and regulations would be framed by the end of this month, stakeholders of the industry would be able to prepare and also communicate with their guests.

“And if the TCB is really going to consult all stakeholders, the rules and regulations will be stronger and practical. I hope they do this,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the government’s moratorium on the import of vehicles saying that vehicles for the use and the promotion of tourism shall be exempted from the moratorium several people the paper interviewed say that people would continue importing vehicles in the name of tourism.

A businessman said proper monitoring is required and crucial. The terms and conditions, and type/number of vehicles to avail of the exemption from this moratorium, would be submitted by the TCB.

Answering questions concerning proper monitoring, especially verifying if the vehicle is truly for tourism purposes, TCB’s DG said they are aware that possibilities of people taking advantage are there.

“In terms of allowing import of vehicle for tourism purposes, we will come up with a menu, that if the vehicle is being imported for tourism purposes, it has to be used for that only,” he said, adding that TCB and RSTA will be coming together and setting standards for tourism vehicle.

He further mentioned that provisions such as vehicle certification and standards, similar to what exists for hotels and guides, could be drawn for the verification of vehicles.

“Maybe we will even have different colored number plates for the vehicles imported for tourism purposes so that it will be easier for everyone to monitor,” he said. Underling that tourism will be very valuable in the future, the DG said that they would like to have standard vehicles.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu