The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has asked Bhutan Resorts Private Ltd, Amankora, in writing, for an explanation regarding their guest, the French artist’s graffiti on holy sites and public places in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha.

The artist posted pictures of his work in Bhutan on his Instagram handle, #invaderwashere. Many referred the graffiti on the wall of Cheri monastery and a choeten on the way to Taktsang in Paro as disrespectful to the Bhutanese culture.

An official with the TCB said the office is trying to find out the details of how these incidences happened. “Until we know the full details, we cannot comment.”

However, the official said that if it were evident that there have been lapses from the tour operator or the guide, penalties would be imposed as per the Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017.

“TCB is also of the view that by giving so much attention to this, we are providing more publicity to such stunts which is exactly what such people want,” he said.

The official said it is expected of all guests to be mindful and responsible of culture and environment they visit. “So far we have been lucky with guests who have been respectful of our culture and environment with some of them even reminding us about responsible and sustainable tourism practices.”

“It is really unfortunate with the French guest who seems to have been irresponsible,” the official said.

The guest also violated the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism which was adopted by the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation in 1999 which calls on industry, communities and tourists alike to promote responsible tourism to make meaningful contributions to people’s lives and our planet, the official added.

The guest travelled in a group of 14. A total of 14 guides and drivers were assigned to the group but only seven guides accompanied the group to Taksang. The guests visited sites in the three dzongkhags during their week-long stay in the country.

One of the guides said that the tourist has asked a guide if he could install his artwork on a wall at the Cheri monastery. The guide told him that it wouldn’t be allowed since it is an important historical site.

“He said that he is an artist and his art is related to Buddhism. He showed his art, which resembles a mandala, to us,” the guide said. “We discussed among ourselves and told the guest that we need to get permission from the right person.”

The guide learnt that the guest had installed the artwork on a wall of Cheri monastery after getting permission from the monastery’s caretaker.

The guide said that the guest selects the sites for his artwork. “He said his artwork of a monk is perfect for the choeten located on the way to Taktsang. We again said that he has to get permission.”

The guide claims that the guest has his artwork installed on the choeten before they knew it. “When returning from the monastery I was with the group and the guest had gone ahead,” he said. “He had the artwork already installed when we reached the site. He told us that he had installed it and if people don’t like it, they will remove it.”

The general manager with Amankora is out of the country and other officials Kuensel contacted did not comment.

Dechen Tshomo