At a time when the government is making serious effort to take tourism to the top, reports tell us that a lot of things ought to be improved first if tourism is to be the biggest contributor to the nation’s economy.

Tourism Council of Bhutan’s (TCB) exit survey 2018 found that banking services, communications and toilet facilities in the country are some of the areas where development is necessary.

More than 20 percent of tourists said that they were dissatisfied with the banking system, including exchange, point of sale, and ATM services. And, likewise, 15 percent of visitors from abroad said communication facilities, including Internet and telephone services, could be improved.  A poor toilet facility in the country has long been a problem, not only for visitors but also for the local people.

According to Bhutan Tourism Monitor, 274,097 tourists visited Bhutan last year, 7.61 percent increase compared with that of 2017. In the came year, the country’s second biggest revenue contributor, saw its earning go up by USD 5.6 million compared with that of the previous year.

TCB has already selected Lhuentse, Zhemgang, Dagana, Gasa, and Samtse as priority dzongkhags to develop tourism in the country. The gross receipt from tourism is expected to increase from Nu 10.6 billion in 2018 to about Nu 39.16 billion in the next five years. Similarly, direct revenue contribution is expected to cross Nu 5.48B, about Nu 3.91 more than in 2018. What this means is that we should be prepared for arrival growth.

But we have challenges. The sector is not able to sell Bhutan as an exclusive destination. That fact that more than 80 percent of the respondents said that they were satisfied with the facilities and services during their visit to Bhutan, the challenges are not all too big. The danger is that if we fail to improve basic services for the visitors, value for money will take the hardest beating. And that will not be good for the future of tourism development in the country.

Therefore, besides product development, we must also focus on development of services in the country. They are both equally important.