If the online permit for regional tourists that is piloted in Phutentsholing, work well, the process would become mandatory.

The economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji said all issues related to regional tourists would be resolved if the online permit is made compulsory. He was responding to Bumdeling-Jamkhar MP, Dupthob during the question hour yesterday at the National Assembly. MP Dupthob had enquired on the implementation status of regional tourism proposed by the economic development and private sector committee of the house in the last session.

The minister highlighted the provisions of the new economic development policy where provisions have been kept to monitor the impacts of tourism.

Responding to the query, he said that tourists arriving with online permit will require a local tourist guide, vehicle of registration with the local authority and will also require staying in a certified hotel.

He said that the online permit system was currently on a trial and a review report on the system by the concerned agencies were expected soon according to which the government would adopt further initiatives.

However, only 4,871 regional tourists have availed the online permit system while 47,677 regional tourists have availed the old system of entry at the Phuentsholing immigration office.

Further, he said, to make their experience worthwhile and to cater to their safety, entry permit fees is being introduced in some religious site like Taktshang and Tashichhodzong. The same would be introduced at Punakha Dzong and during the upcoming Royal flower exhibition.

While the policy is clear, Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said that the tourism Bill and rules and regulations are being studied. Once these are implemented, he said everything should be clear.

Dupthob said that the fact that more than 47,000 regional tourist preferring offline permit over 4,871 online permit speaks for itself. He said that there is a need for a comprehensive policy to include all regional tourists.

Lyonpo reiterated that economic development is the comprehensive solution. He added that the online permit is being piloted in Phuentsholing only. If it goes well, it would be replicated in Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar where regional tourists make their entry. “Ideally all problems would be solved if it is made compulsory,” Lyonpo said.

Tshering Dorji