No haste in reforming tourism sector

Gov.t to study all recommendations before taking a decision

Meet the press: The government will decide on the proposed changes in the tourism sector after studying the recommendations of the National Council, draft Economic Development Policy (EDP) and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk, at the meet-the-press session yesterday, said the government would examine and get a comprehensive perspective after it has all the three recommendations.

“Firstly we need to see if there is a need for reform and if so, what is the path that we tread and the strategies that we would adopt,” lyonpo said, when asked about the government’s view on whether its time for a change in the tariff system as recommended by the Council and proposed in the draft EDP.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk is also the vice chairman of the TCB.

He said it’s interesting that currently the tourism sector is looked at from three fronts referring to the Council, the EDP and the TCB’s review of tourism policy.

While the National Council probably focused on the tariff structure, lyonpo said a group of civil servants from the economic affairs ministry are working on the EDP.

“As part of the comprehensive EDP, they have also looked at how to revamp and reform the tourism sector where they have also included the tariff structure,” lyonpo said.

Most importantly, lyonpo said TCB with support of expertise from the World Bank is developing a comprehensive recommendation on the tourism strategies and policies as a whole that would capture the structure as well.

“The government would be much wiser with three different recommendations perhaps with some convergence,” lyonpo said. “We’ll entrust all the recommendations to the civil servants who would then give a reasoned judgment.”

Lyonpo said that essentially for the government, it works with relevant civil servants to whom all the recommendations would be entrusted.

“So until it comes to the Cabinet, we will not be able to take any decision,” lyonpo said, adding that right now the government has the Council’s and the EDP recommendations and that TCB recommendation is expected soon.

The National Council during its 16th session resolved to recommend the government to reform the “archaic tourism pricing mechanism by moving from the fixed minimum daily tariff system to a more transparent pricing system that provides tourists greater value for money and discourages the malpractice of undercutting and improves higher value tourism.”

“This recommendation would entail retaining or even increasing the royalty component (sustainable tourism fee) and requiring tourists to be routed through local tour operators and using local tour guides,” the resolution states.

Terming Bhutan as an exclusive tourist destination, the draft EDP states that tourists will no longer be required to come through a travel agency. Instead tourists are required to pay a sustainable development fee (royalty) and show the confirmations of guide, vehicle and hotel reservation, airline booking, and travel itinerary before they are issued visas.

The draft EDP states that tourists would be provided with visitors card at the point of entry that provides access to all historical, cultural and other tourist sites.  The value of the card will be equivalent to the visa fees and the sustainable development fee (SDF). The SDF shall be the sole mechanism to promote high value low impact tourism.

The draft EDP also states that TCB would set the SDF on a monthly basis at the beginning of the year to ensure distribution of the tourist inflow throughout the year and by region. The draft also recommends lower fees in the months when the tourist arrivals are low and higher fees during peak season.

For tourists staying longer than 10 days, lower fees would be levied and a discount on SDF would be offered for repeat visitors from their second visit. However, the government can exempt or lower the SDF to visitors from select countries during lean seasons for a fixed duration.

Kinga Dema

5 replies
    MIGNIEN says:

    1/ Tourism in Bhutan suffer of an endemic disease : the irregular flux of tourists over a year give only peak months for tourism from March to June ( about) and mid-August up to mid December .
    2/ I quote the article very well documented “TOURISM IN EXCESS” whom warnings were disregarded by the officials of TCB since beginning of january 2015. The few foreign Tour Operators who manage journey in Bhutan ( they are few because TCB do not activate any avertising campain for Bhutan in french speaking area in Europe) say that only about 300 Guides would be sufficient . Despites they are 2947 !!!
    Perhaps this number permit to the GVT to decrease the number of jobseekers ? This point of view risk to leap up indignantly among the word of applicant guides. And even guides on the job !

    3/ A basic arithmetic operation give 12.000/2947 over a year ( 12.000 is a figure of 2014 arrivals , 2947 is the most recent figure ) result 4 tourists by year by guide. This is out of casual way of living . Although the same managment with only 300 guides about give 40 Tourists by year. Thoses figures include little groups of about 2 up to 6 tourists and more important groups of 12 up to 15 maximum . This permit to work about 9 up to 10 months a year ; with sequence of 10 up to 13 Days journeys .
    For a deeper analysis it lacks up to date statistic figures like : the average number of day tourist stay in the country , the average number of tourists by group , the averages depenses of a tourist during his stay ( extra depenses ) , the type of journey – cultural , specialised ( which ? ) , the most current routes taken in the country by the tourists ( alas always the same ; the innovation of T.O. is limitated by the state of the roads ) .

    4/ But by way of compensation , the GVT should vote a law concerning a minimum wage compulsory which could be from 50 up to 110 USD according the qualification of the guide ( refer to note N° 6 ) . And the T.O. which will not respect this law will be penalized by TCB according rules to establish . And the wages have to be paid quickly within about 15 days about after the end of the journey . Thoses rules would be inspected both by TCB , EAC , and representative of labor Ministry .

    T.O. would not manage the number of guides like a “flexible adjustment” , a way of managing used in entrepreneur ship unit in occident !
    But guides would form an union , to avoid excess of employers.

    5/ Tour operators often complain the lack of cultivated guides . But , first , what is a “cultivated guide” ? According the definition given by the T.O. themselves , and more by the tourists , who are finally the masters of the journey ; cultivated , as for me , mean general knowledges about geography , economy , , way of living of Buthaneses , flora , fauna , meals , agriculture , areas of sports , Buddhism representation , feast , pictures , painting in Dzongs .
    It would be important to have a jury to check the general knowlege of the futur guides about their kingdom . Particularly sports possible : water sports , trekking , walking , biking , safari photo , and so on to give desire to the tourists to come back .
    It would be important to each guide to have on them advertising documents to distribute on the spot .
    The jury can be assisted by specialists in each matter.

    And without forget check their knowledges in Buddhism philosophy ; a specialized highly cultivated like Karma Puntsho would examine general knowledge and the meanig of picture iover Dzong walls and temples. And He would check if the applicants can describe the sacred paintings . And the meaning of ritual dances and ritual clothes.

    TCB must check the good English language speaking . And when the candidate declare that he can speak rare languages like French , German , Spanish , jury could ask to a speaking language appropriate man to have a short debate in that language and report to jury the quality of speaking.

    In any language the applicants must have a refined laguage with tourists and , more , they must not use familiar way like the pronoun “tu” in French .

    6/ Suggestion of classification and wages of guides by day and by guide out of meals and accommodation ( I INSIST IT IS A SUGGESTION )

    Level I Beginners 50 NU Job of assistant of a senior guide for group over 10

    Level II experimented 1st year 60 NU . : group of less than 6 . After 2 years , according the number of managing tourists , he could be run in level III

    Level III very experimented senior 80 NU Guide with specialized skills in water sports , biking , trekking , walking , fauna , flora .

    Level IV Guide lel III plus speaking FLUENTLY a rare language ; 100 NU and more
    ( for instance there is only 5 really on the job who can speak french and can have a casual disussion with French tourists

    They must have general basis of knowledge : general laws of the country , TCB rules , respect of tourist , usual habits of occidental tourists must be known .

    And all must know the first emergency aids.

    A famous guide has always jobs ; T.O. know the best among them ; the top 10 T.O. could know in a glimpse of an eye if an applicants would be a future good guide after experiments. And tourists will feel quickly the best among them , thanks to the facilities to have casual discussion about many subjects.

    “Even if they are new entrants , if they are good at what they do , they will naturally get more business” say a T.O. .

    I hope this text WHICH IS A SUGGESTION , I REPEAT will help to enhance the quality of guides and will imply the increase of occidental tourists arrivals. That is the best for financial benefits for all stakeholders , comprising guides whom reputation is in danger if nothing is done.

    But I agree with Lonpo Norbu Wangchuck , who is TCB’s Vice Chairman , with his wisdom appeal : “NO HASTE IN REFORMING TOURISM SECTOR” , it is better to wait some convergences between the stakeholders .



  2. Benzeaux
    Benzeaux says:

    Forcing all tourists to use a tour-guide will, without question, have a chilling effect on overall tourism. The number of tourists that come into Bhutan will certainly be lower because many tourists do not want a tour-guide at all, much less be forced to pay for one and then have to follow the guide around. While the tour-guides may still make more money overall despite decreased tourist numbers due to the fact that all tourists must pay for a guide, ALL other businesses even partially dependent upon tourism will suffer decreased revenue, and thus profit, due to the fact that many tourists simply will not come to Bhutan if they are forced to have a mandatory baby-sitter. As a disinterested foreigner, with only a small chance of ever visiting Bhutan, please heed this warning so that all businesses benefitting from tourism, other than tour-guides, do not suffer. Good luck, Bhutan! :)

      MIGNIEN says:

      ANSWER TO MR BEENZEAUX of his comment of january 4
      Dear Sir : Here is a pro domo manifest against you ignorance of the country

      1/ Your comment show that you ignore totally the well knowledge of that country I love so much ; You speak only the non necessity of a guide

      2/ This country need to be well understood : before visiting ( you tell that you have few chance to visit Bhutan : so why this comment ? ) you must read the following books about Bhutan : Bhutan of Lonely plantet collection or more tittled “Bhoutan” whom author is Françoise Pommaret , the best connoisseur woman of that kingdom . Editor is in switzerland called “Edition Olizane” .
      3/ Some historic reports : Bhutan has a very strong history with Budhism , linked thanks to the religious and Policy charismatic Abbey of the Tibetan Drukpa called Ngawang Namgyel ( 1594-1651 ). The very history of Bhutan as an independant state begin in december 1905 with the first King Ugyen Wangchuck . The Wangchuck dynasty was born . And since 2008 a new constitution manage the parliamentary Policy .
      So , if you ignore the past , you cannot know the implications of the budhism philosophy in all the country . I feel , according your words , your knowledge of Bhutan is poor . Time is ready for you to study this tiny country before any comment .
      4/ When visiting the country , you enter in the 18/19 century . And all the monuments , buildings , temples , are inspired by the buddhism phylosophy as the famous Dzongs .
      So a profitable visit in Bhutan is both a pilgrimage in the past and in Buddhism and a very inner experiment for yourself . So you can understand that Bhutan is not made for mass tourism. And visit Bhutan , which is now a brand called “Bhutan” need to be a sentient being to the beauty of the deities . And what a pleasure to see the paintings over the walls of any temple and Dzongs as the huge Buddha statue over Thimphu . Those paints describe Buddha’s life .

      And what a pleasure to marvel at landscapes – building , home building , villages architecture , and the charming of peasants , a content source o amazement , changing with the sunrise and the view over Himalayan chain .
      The many paying dollar tourists are fond of this country when they come back to their homeland . They were at least 12.000 during 2014 !!
      A “simply tourists” as you say do not come to Bhutan whitout those goals. More , Bhutan dislike backpackers without any money.
      I am agree with the words which were insipred by His Majesty indicating the purpose of Policy tourism :”High value , low impact” ; it means that , for helping development of the country , the goverment prefer and need fortunate tourists better than mass tourism , which are often less weallthy and cannot feel the deep reality of the country.
      The assistance of a well cultivated guide will give you the keys of tha country blessed by Gods .
      The expensive cost of a journey in Bhutan ( ten days not including routes to come ) is due to the foreigner Tour Operators who commissioned theirs delivery service from 20% up to 30% of the total price of the trip . The cost of a guide is peanuts . And the bad infrastructures need to have local guide and driver to benefit all the main treasure to see .
      And it is a good way to reduce the number of jobseekers !
      As in every trip , a visitor has to prapare minimum knowledges over the country he wants to visit . This is not your position .
      Your point of view is an offence to the Bhutanese people who are a so peacefull people with a deep sentient religious being inside themselves.
      Let Lord Buddha give you a tiny enlightement over a country whom people is doing much effort to be a developed tiny country !

      Thanks to GNH Policy whom words were created by Her Majesty the King ! and thus known all over the world !


    MIGNIEN says:

    The Kuensel articles used as reference to that study are :
    TOURISM IN EXCESS ( Kuensel JAN 1 2015 )
    TOUR GUIDES WANT A FIXED DAILY ALLOWANCE 5 Bhutan Business DEC 26 page 4 )

    The National Council , over recommendation of EAC , revealed deep divergences of interests almost irreconciliable between the actors of the affair of change in the tourism industry Policy . The rigorous report of the article called “the cost of maximizing …” opposed two groups of stakeholders without any possible understanding between each other.
    Brievly said , the two groups of actors are :

    Hoteliers and guides on one hand.
    Tour operators on the other hand

    And for side effects the Airlines carriers.

    Those opposite views lead the N.C. not to take part and give non comments . Each group safeguarding its proper tiny interests with kick and struggle.
    Nevertheless , as a frequent tourist of Bhutan , and friend of some relatives T.O. in French speaking area , and as a free translator of at least 4 or to 5 Kuensel articles in French for the french speaking buthaneses TCB guides , not counting my numerous comments in kuensel , let me permit some suggestions to TCB officials to pacify the parties.

    My comments concern only the tourist TCB guides in charge with high curency paying tourists in UDS and in EUROS mainly. Called occidental tourists


    To avoid entrance of dark sheep like every year “cheater and trespassers guide violating the law ” , TCB officials through police inquiry or TCB unaware inquiries among guide , i suggest to check the root of the problem . I.e. when receving each willing entrant guide , to institute , in addition of other questions and inquiries , the following panel of question to give on the first interview before continuing to check the other knowledges of the possible entrants not aware of the reality of the job . And it will be necessary to make up a very selection to discover the deep motives of the entrants.
    List of the questions to proof the quality of the entrant possible guides without the ears of the others.
    Why do you want to become a tourist guide?
    How do you consider occidental tourists?
    How is your judgement concerning the offences of the offenders guides who violate the law ?
    Do you know the rules and laws which you must respect as a guide ?
    T.O. want cultivated guides : according you what is a cultivated one ?
    Do you consider to be a cultivated man or woman ?
    Do you have some relatives among the circle of friend around you?
    Are you convince to cultivate and improve you knowledges so that your answers to the tourists will be better?
    Are you ready to eat at the same table of the tourists with fork , spoon , and knife as the occidental way and not with fingers ?
    Do you know the type of penalty that TCB apply in case of offences to the guides rules ?
    Do you know that , as a guide , your clothes ( always Gho ) must be always clean , hand and fingers too ? your smell must be acceptable by tourist ; DO NOT SMOKE EVEN IF TOURIST OFFER YOU A CIGARETTE or CIGAR ; do not use any swear words nor slang words of filthy one in front of tourist.
    Even if happen conflicts beteween tourist , you must not take part to th conflict . You must stay apart .
    A guide represent the Kindom ; he is the first contact the tourist have with buthaneses people. You must show you are worthy to represent Bhutan .
    All long of the journey , you have to keep with you TCB GUIDE CARD updated .
    Tourist , sometimes , ask for special or extra provisions for service which are not implied in their stay program in Bhutan . In that case , if happen , do not take any decision without T.O. orders .

    Pay attention : at the end of their journey ,tourists are delivered by the T.O. an inquiry sheet Under an enveloppe to be closed by tourists themselves to know their point of view of the journey . An particularly , often , judgement over their guide. This envelope will be directly sent to the T.O. concerned by the tourists .

    This type of interview at the beginning of any volonteer for being guide would be eliminatory ; this would detect any incompetent , curious , or any greedy man hidden over his real personality and can even detect a crook . To avoid any excess preference ( up to corruption ) , all the debate between jury staff will be secret .

    The TCB jury must be very severe ; it is the better way to rebuid the level of guides .TCB must eliminate volonteer in case of insufficient or inadequate or contradictory answers . More , if necessary , the jury should have an open debate with the applicant .

    Jury vote with simple majority . To avoid impssible majority , ( the samle number of for and against ) the number of jury’s member must be odd ( for instance 3 ,5 , 7 , 9 11 and so on ) .

    Those interviews should avoid many guides offenders ; and those who want the job only to have money and job . And reassure the tourists to have a good guide .



    MIGNIEN says:


    As Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuck ( TCB’s Vice Chairman ) in Business Bhutan , issue of Saturday January 02 , has repeated the GVT expression of reforming “the archaic tourism pricing mechanism” , i joint my point of view as a foreign tourist.

    But , above, i expose on one part of the tourist system which is in danger and give difficulties to the entire industry . I QUOTE THE PROBLEM OF GUIDES ;

    So I done my effort to expose suggestions to help the country I love so much . It is known that the important first contact the tourist have with your country is the guide . So a deep review must be applied rapidly about the rules of selection and wages of guides. Many offences happen among Young entrants in the job.
    I quote kuensel articles very alarming. The brand “Bhutan” is involved Especially as not any advertising is done for Bhutan in French speaking area of Europe .

    I hope the problem will not be solve by immobilism although TCB Vice Chairman say with a great Wisdom .


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