Phurpa Lhamo

The Opposition Party, through a press release yesterday, called the government to put in place a clear, proactive, and robust standard operating procedures (SOP) for tourism.

It also questioned whether a tourist would be allowed to travel if he or she tested positive after five days of quarantine, what would happen if a tourist tested positive while travelling, and how the government would ensure tourists do not bring in a new variant of the virus.

The Opposition Party’s press release comes after the news report of 34 international tourists arriving in the country on April 2. The tourists would be in the country for 27 nights including the quarantine period.

The group will have to undergo 14 days of facility quarantine since the five-days quarantine guideline will come into effect only on April 4.

With further relaxations, the Prime Minister’s Office earlier announced that the quarantine period for incoming (international) travellers would be reduced to five days starting April 4. “The testing protocol will be revised accordingly,” it stated.

The Opposition Party’s press release stated that a clear, proactive, and robust SOP should be put in place for the management of tourism in the new phase. “This was in view of the past experience where almost all national lockdowns have been caused by lapses in protocols pertaining to international travellers, tourists or foreign workers.”

It stated that they take great delight in being able to finally reopen tourism. “Tourism is of paramount importance, especially from the point of view of employment generation and convertible currency earnings.”

Further, the press release stated that the sooner smarter ways to revamp a vital sector like tourism is devised, the better it would be for the revival and rebounding of country economy. “The news of imminent arrival of a group of tourists this week, for that matter, is heartening and encouraging.”

It, however, stated that given the experience of repeated lockdowns triggered by the lapses in the protocols of inbound international travellers, it has become absolutely important and literally non-negotiable to have in place a clear and comprehensive protocol for tourists.

Furthermore, despite the talks of reopening tourism, the press release stated that the Opposition Party wasn’t aware of any new or progressive mechanisms or protocols developed by the government. “Besides averting risks to the nation, it is equally important that tourism and hospitality sectors do not go through another prolonged disruption owing to mishaps caused by some lapses in the protocol.”

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) issued operational guidelines titled “tourism services under the new normal” in September last year.

The guidelines briefly cover procedures at the airport, arrival airport transfer and travel options, accommodation facilities and SOPs for tourism service providers, which included clean and safe certification of the service providers.

The Opposition Party also stated that the SOP should be conducive and transparent as well, and be updated regularly in keeping with the changing national and international pandemic situation and other considerations.