Choki Wangmo 

In what could be a way forward to offer efficient tourism services to visitors, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is working on digitalising tourism sectors in the country.

The digitalisation process includes creation of a TCB hub, convenient payment gateway, and digitisation of trekking routes and trails, among others.

The proposed TCB hub that will be either web-based or a mobile application is expected to incorporate existing and new services with a one-stop service centre, a payment platform that allows simple payments between users, and the incorporation of the Tashel Visa System into the TCB Hub for streamlining the processes.

According to the Chief of Tourism Promotion Division, Damcho Rinzin, the hub will make access to tourism services easier and user-friendly. “The recommended hub will allow more flexibility and convenience for travellers, more transparency and more focused reach of service providers, and better monitoring and decision making for government organisations.”

He said that TCB had been exploring way forward to digitalise the tourism services to address some of the challenges in the existing system, such as issues in wire transfer, local QR codes, and a non-functioning system that does not accept multi-cards from visitors.

Functions like messenger system and certification of sale of non-antique items will also be incorporated within the hub.

“The hub will generate, aggregate, and compile information in the form of data. Better data capturing allows for higher quality analysis and more informed decision-making capabilities,” stated the digitalisation of Bhutan’s tourism sector report.

Currently, the existing data generated by airlines, hotels, and tour firms in the private sector is found to be under-utilised.

The digitalised system is also expected to meet increased future demands to expand the capabilities and controls to manage tourism sustainably in the country.

However, data privacy, system security and reliability, maintenance and upfront costs, stakeholder involvement, and simplicity of operation remain a concern.

The creation of a digitalised platform is in line with the promotion of National Key Result Areas and the Sustainable Development Goals.

An assessment of the current tourism system of Bhutan highlighted the need for a tourist information search stage where a digitalised platform can cater to a customisable tour arrangement, enhanced communication between tourists and tour operators, and enriched tourism product and service descriptions with user reviews and ratings.

The assessment also recommended improvement in the visa application process and a common platform with a mobile application to allow real-time tracking and data accumulation of tourist activities in Bhutan.

The hub is recommended to be housed within the greater government data centre network.