With 18 national and a few days in every dzongkhag, Bhutan is among the top holiday lovers

Holiday: March heralds the season of cheerfulness, warmth and beauty. There is a lot to look forward to, except perhaps public holidays – it is one of the two months in 2016 without a single holiday.

But there is nothing to feel sad about.  Those working in the government and public offices have had a holiday-filled February. And there are plenty more in the calendar coming.

There are plenty of government holidays in Bhutan. Although not featured in the list of countries with most public holidays, with 18 government holidays, Bhutan hits among the top five. The number goes to 23 days depending on where you live and work.

With every dzongkhag celebrating tshechu for three days and some taking rest during the first snowfall, thick or thin, public holiday average 22 days in all the dzongkhags. In 2015, there were 23 public holidays in the capital city, including those that fell on the weekends.

In the same year, civil servants and public corporation employees worked for only 318 days after subtracting the 24 Saturdays and Sundays and excluding the casual and earned leave employees are entitled to.

There were two long weekends: one in February (five days) and another in September (six days in Thimphu during the tshechu). March and August were the only months without any public holiday.

This year, there are 24 public holidays, including the holiday during the Thromde elections in January. If Dassain on November 11 fell on another day, it would be 24 days and, if the Nyilo and National Day dates were not on weekends, the number would increase to 27 days in a year.

In Thimphu, those working will contribute for only 317 days out of the 365 days in a year. The longest public holiday will be in October (from 11 to 13). If employees take off Monday, October 10, the break will be six days, including the weekend.

Seven public holidays fall on either Saturday or Sunday in 2016. While some might rue this coincidence, those in the private sector like fewer public holidays.

Public holiday coinciding with working days hampers work, says a contractor. “When it is for days, it is worse. All transactions are blocked,” said the contractor.   For them, it is the banking sector that affects them most.

Tour companies plan their schedules in advance. “But if there is a mistake in the documents and needs amendment, it is a big problem when offices are closed for holidays,” said a tour operator.

Some sectors that are crucial for business collaborate and open for a few hours.  The Bank of Bhutan and Druk Air open for business on government holidays even if it is for a few hours.

Private sector also remains closed on important occasions like the birth anniversary of His Majesty the King and on National Day. “We plan and take turns or make use of flexi time on other holidays,” said the tour operator.

Tshering Palden