Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has proposed three approaches to achieve its vision of taking tourism to the top by 2023.

The council, however, is yet to present the proposal to the Cabinet.

The first approach is to focus on dzongkhags TCB has selected – Lhuentse, Zhemgang, Dagana, Gasa, and Samtse.

TCB’s director general, Dorji Dradhul, at the first national tourism conference last week, said that these dzongkhags were selected based on the tourist arrivals and also because other dzongkhags would be covered while reaching to these dzongkhags.

“We are hoping that the focused dzongkhag approach will be implemented in a project mode,” he said. “A dedicated team will be looking after each of these dzongkhags.”

In project-based approach, the remaining dzongkhags will have a minimum of one project, basically a new tourism product.

For instance, there could be a highland festival in Merak and Sakteng in the east, he said. “This could be one project, but depending on the potential and feasibility, after consultation with the dzongkhags, we could come up with more projects.”

Adventure sports, tourist amenities, waste-based recreational activity, waste management, promotion, services delivery, promotion, and black-necked crane festival were cited some of the examples of the project-based approach.

Dorji Dradhul said that at this point of time, to sustain tourism for all times to come, waste and garbage management was the biggest challenge.

Therefore, under the flagship programme, he said that there would be several projects to help other agencies that were already into this area of work to manage waste.

In terms of promotion, he said that the tourism sector was not able to sell Bhutan as an exclusive destination. “Now, under the flagship programme, with adequate budgetary support, we are hoping to change this scenario.”

The third approach, the accelerated programmes, is support services to achieve the first two approaches.

Policy and regulatory frameworks, promotion and branding, institutional, strengthening research and development, products and attractions, human resources and skills, standards and safeguards are under the accelerated programmes.

Dorji Dradhul pointed out that the tourism sector currently did not have a written policy. “Maybe in the next three months we should be able to table a comprehensive tourism policy.”

He added: “If we are not able to achieve the target by 2023, then in the 13th Plan we should be able to achieve our vision of taking tourism to the top in terms of a revenue generation.”

He said that with the implemention of the flagship programme, tourism gross receipts were expected to increase from Nu 10.6B (billion) in 2018 to about Nu 39.16B in the next five years. Similarly, direct revenue contribution would be over Nu 5.48B, about Nu 3.91 more than in 2018. Receipts and revenue are linked to the arrival growths.

The arrivals are expected to increase from 274,097 to 466,900. The international arrivals are projected at 15 per cent and regional at 11 per cent.

In 2023, the growth is expected to increase by 101.86 per cent (cumulative of the base year).

Under the flagship programme, the sector is expected to increase the ratio of high spending to low spending from 1:3 to 3:1, create over 15,000 additional jobs and to achieve 100 per cent tourist satisfaction level.

Currently, there are more than 2,300 tour operators and over 1,500 tour guides in the country.

“In case we don’t get this flagship programme, the figures estimated to achieve are lower,” he said. Receipts are expected to increase to Nu 13.21B, revenue to Nu 1.85 B and the total arrivals to increase to 306,065.

Increased contribution of tourism to the national economy and rural livelihoods, balanced regional development and seasonal spread of tourism, and enhanced visitor experience of Bhutan as an exclusive destination are the three expected results from the approaches.

Dechen Tshomo