Nima Wangdi

The tourism policy has been amended by Parliament and the hoteliers welcome the change.

One of the Three Star hotel owners in Thimphu said that with hotels able to get bookings directly from the guests, not having to route through travel agents is good.

“We had to depend on tour operators who decided to send guests depending on the amount of discounts we could give them. They also did marketing for us abroad.” He said that now hoteliers have an opportunity to market products better. 

Another hotel owner said that with this change in the policy, Bhutan would receive quality tourists. “It means better earning for us.”

He said the change in the policy could also benefit budget hotels since the tourists have the liberty to choose hotels.

“Taj Tashi and Le Meridien have 50 percent occupancy with Indian tourists, which means Indians are one of the potential targets for any grade of hotels,” he said.

Another hotelier, who runs a budget hotel said that with this change, tourists can also choose their own menu besides the hotels.

“We have been requesting the authorities for a change in the system that will enable the hoteliers to deal with the tourists directly,” he said.

Another budget hotel owner said that the budget hotels did not receive fiscal incentives and tax benefits like the bigger hotels did. He said the government should look into this so that the budget hotels can also upgrade rooms and services.

A hotelier said there are more hotels but the number of tourists might drop due to the increase in sustainable development fund (SDF) from 65 to 200. She said that most of those who can afford to come paying the amount might opt to stay in the bigger hotels.

She said: “To stay afloat in the business, we will have to increase our online presence and also tie up with the tour operators abroad. Only the fittest might survive.”

Another hotelier said that the number of USD paying tourists might fall due to the revised SDF. The competition among the hotels for the limited number of guests might be intense but it should get settled in about two years. “By then, those who can’t survive will have opted out.”

Another hotelier who runs a three-star hotel said that there used to be rush in hotel booking in the past during the festival seasons but this might not happen from hereon. “Some hoteliers have not received their hotel bills from the tour operators even today; this problem will not be there.”

Hotel and Restaurants Association of Bhutan’s Chairperson, Sonam Wangchuk, said that they welcome the change that parliament endorsed recently.

“However, the increase in SDF might lead to decrease in the number of tourists coming to Bhutan. But we are ready to give the change a chance to survive,” he said.