The Cabinet will have the final say

Tourism: The closure timing for Taktshang monastery, Paro that was to come into effect from April 1 is deferred again.  The Cabinet will now decide it.

Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said that the ministry has decided to put up the issue to the Cabinet because it will have impact at the national level.

The home secretary wrote to the Paro dzongdag on February 15 supporting the Paro Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) resolution of closing Taktshang monastery every Tuesday from April 1.

The DT endorsed the closure timing for visitors on Tuesdays except on auspicious days from January 1, 2016. The dzongkhag administration submitted the proposal stating that cleaning and repair or renovation works would be done on Tuesdays.

In the latest development, the letter from the home secretary to Paro dzongkhag on February 15 states that the ministry finds no problem in implementing the rule as decided by the DT. The letter states that the closure was necessary as the increasing visitors posed issues in keeping the monastery clean. The letter also states that it has also become difficult for the monks at Taktshang to perform daily rituals and prayers because of increasing visitors.

As soon as Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) were informed of the closure timing from April, the association along with the hotels and the guides association held an emergency meeting. The associations then wrote to TCB with a copy to the council members opposing the closure timing.

They also submitted alternate recommendations such as closing the monastery on Tuesdays by 3pm instead of the whole day. The association also suggested collection of entrance fee and compulsory guide requirement for all tourists.

ABTO’s executive director Sonam Dorje said that such internal issue will have repercussion on the industry. He said a visit to Taktshang is on every tourist’s itinerary. “Taktshang for Bhutan is like the Big Ben or Statue of Liberty.”

Such decision, he said also damages the credibility of tours to Bhutan. “In one day it’s allowed, it’s not the other day and again deferred without further notice,” he said.

Tour operators earlier expressed concerns over the ad hoc change in timing saying no consultation was done with regard to the decision although it concerns a national heritage.

Kinga Dema