Foreign affairs ministry issued a notification on December 20 asking all government and private agencies to avoid hosting big international and regional conferences during the peak tourist seasons.

The notification is implemented with effect from January 1.

“While the ministry acknowledges the benefits, it is also informed of the growing concerns the tourism industry has over the increasing number of such events being held during peak tourist seasons as the tourism infrastructure especially hotel accommodation and airline seats are stretched to its limit,” it states.

Because of this, all ministries, constitutional bodies, autonomous agencies, corporate and the private sector organisations were asked to avoid hosting of international and regional conferences having above 30 international participants and other such events during the peak tourist seasons.

Visitors prefer spring (March, April, and May) and autumn (September, October, and November) seasons to visit Bhutan.

Of a total of 209,570 foreign individuals who visited Bhutan in 2016, about 65,277 came in spring and 63,053 in autumn.

Although there were visitors in the country throughout the year in 2016, the highest visitors were seen in the month of May with 30,270, followed by in October with 27,932.

Foreign Secretary Sonam Tshong, during the ministry’s mid-year review of annual performance agreement earlier this month, said that the ministry facilitated 12 regional and multilateral meetings in the past six months up to January.

The foreign ministry will take into account the timing of these events while issuing clearances for conferences or meetings in Bhutan. A minimum of 30 days’ notice must be given to the foreign ministry to apply for clearance to host any regional or international events in the country.

An official with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) said that taking into consideration the challenges of seasonality in the tourism industry in Bhutan, hosting international and regional meetings and conferences in the country is encouraged in the summer and winter months, especially for the government agencies.

“If big international, regional conferences and meetings are held during the summer and winter months, this will not only help our tourism industry in generating business throughout the year, but also help participants get good rates and better deals,” the official said.

In an effort to promote MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and events) during summer and winter months, there is a provision in the Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017 where participants in a group of a minimum of 30 people visiting for meeting and conference purposes are exempted from paying the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for additional two days besides the actual duration of conference and meeting.

Dechen Tshomo