A monitoring team visited trekking routes and tourist sites in Paro and Thimphu

Regulations: At almost three cases a day, the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s (TCB) monitoring team found 35 cases of tour operators and guides violating the tourism rules and regulations during a 12-day random inspection.

The inspection was on since the Thimphu drupchen in September. Besides the tourist sites in Thimphu, the team also visited trekking routes and tourist sites in Paro. The monitoring team conducts on-the-spot inspection at the airport, dzongs and immigration checkpoints during the tourist seasons. The team also monitors the dress code, display of license and whether tour guides adhere to the tour guide code of conduct.

TCB officials said that during the on-the-spot inspection so far this year, there were cases where tour operators engaged non-certified guides and guides without valid licenses. Some licensed tour guides were found without their licenses while on duty while some guides operated as guide and driver. There were also cases where guides did not display their licenses although they were carrying the document.

TCB spokesperson said the penalties for each of these offences vary. For instance, if an offender is a tour operator who employs non-certified guides, they are imposed a fine of Nu 5,000 on the first instance followed by Nu 10,000 for the second instance. “Then it leads to cancellation of licenses if caught for the third time,” the spokesperson said.

“Licensed guides who don’t carry their licenses while on duty are first issued a written warning followed by Nu 5,000 and 10,000 penalty respectively if caught again,” the spokesperson said, adding that it would then result in a cancellation of their licenses.

Meanwhile, in connection with the drug crackdown that the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) initiated since December 2013, records show that 20 guides were convicted for drug abuse and trafficking. RBP has forwarded the list of the guides to the TCB, Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators and the Guides Association of Bhutan.

Kuensel learnt that TCB’s disciplinary committee has cancelled the licenses of the guides who were convicted.

As of last year, there are about 2,400 guides and about 1,300 tour operators in the country.

Kinga Dema