A tourism development board with 13 members has been established to enhance the tourism sector.

Establishing the board was one of the government’s pledges to be implemented in 120 days. The government has also pledged that it would initiate implementation of the recommendations of the Bhutan Tourism Review 2016.

The member of the board constitutes the chief planning officers of the agriculture ministry, home ministry, information and communications ministry, economic affairs ministry, labour ministry, and Gross National Happiness Commission.

From the private sectors, the executive directors of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Guide Association of Bhutan, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan, Handicrafts Association of Bhutan, and the director general and a planning officer with the Tourism Council of Bhutan secretariat are the members of the board.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the chairman of the third tourism council, said the council and the board were created as per the recommendation of the Bhutan Tourism Review. He said that a separate body was needed to look into marketing and promoting tourism, keeping in mind the interest of the stakeholders.

“All members of the board are at the working level,” he said. “We hope that they will be active and dynamic to bring issues that concern the tourism sector to the council and the council will take the issues to enhance tourism in the country.”

The second tourism council was chaired by the former prime minister. He said that because of the prime minister’s schedule, the council meetings could not take place regularly and, as a result, many decisions regarding tourism was delayed.

In terms of having a tourism policy, which was one of the recommendations of the review, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that there was a need to look into it because the country currently did not have a written document as Bhutan’s Tourism Policy.

“If it merits one, then we can even think of having a tourism bill or an Act,” Lyonchhen said. “Having an Act alone will not mean that tourism will be developed; it also brings a lot of side effects.”

Whether this is really required would be discussed.

“Whether we have an Act or not, tourism policy will be reviewed and shared with you all,” Lyonchhen said.

A think tank constituted by ABTO prepared the Bhutan tourism review and recommendations 2016.

The report covers a variety of issues such as the tariff structure, marketing and promotion, lack of coordination and certification and monitoring, among others.

Dechen Tshomo