Yangchen C Rinzin

Sector clearance, unclear directives and delayed decisions from stakeholders were some of the challenges Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) faced in implementing tourism activities.

Sharing the status of TCB’s 12th Plan activities during the midterm review on April 20, director general Dorji Dhradhul said there is a need to facilitate more efficient clearance issuance systems.

“We want stakeholders to provide clear directives,” he said.

TCB works with stakeholders like the Department of Law and Order, Department of Culture, Department of Immigration, and Department of Forest and Parks Services.

Dorji Dhradhul explained that they faced difficulty in implementing local tourism activities during the pandemic. “Places and lhakhangs that tourists are not allowed to visit should be clear.”

The director general also highlighted duplication of tourism activities because different agencies including private, corporate, and international donors work in silos.

“Local governments make independent decisions that affect tourism as a whole,” he said. “Despite an executive order issued in 2019 that any decision related to tourism must be consulted with TCB, no one follows it.”

According to Dorji Dhradhul, the Gross National Happiness Commission, as an overall planning body, could provide information on activities related to tourism or funding including donour funding for tourism activities under other agencies.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said it is not just in tourism activities where officials do not abide by executive orders. “We are more interested in telling than listening.”

He agreed TCB should be consulted for any tourism activities.

Lyonchhen also reminded TCB to aim in providing the best services to tourists so that when they return, they could encourage other people to visit Bhutan instead of aiming to make sure tourists visit all dzongkhags or base it on the number of tourists coming in.

He also said even the visa rule should be relooked because while TCB needs tourists, the immigration department doesn’t need tourists. “I’ll discuss the issues with immigration department.”

An observer during the MTR, Dasho Karma Ura, suggested a coordination strategy where agencies could come together and discuss the projects they approved. “Then agencies would know how to collaborate and avoid duplications.”