A means of generating data with a view to promote domestic tourism 

Tourism: For a better understanding of inbound, domestic and outbound tourism expenditure, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will conduct the first tourism satellite accounting in the upcoming financial year.

A tourism satellite accounting is a standard framework that serves as the main tool for economic measurement of tourism.  This, TCB officials said, would help them capture the scope and movement of domestic tourism, besides the spending patterns of both domestic and outbound tourists.

TCB’s head of planning division, Kinley Wangdi, said the council was looking at how to tap domestic tourism. “Through the tourism satellite accounting, we’ll be able to capture domestic tourism in data and analyse it,” he said.

Kinley Wangdi said the satellite accounting would also help TCB facilitate tour operators, who will have to promote domestic tourism.

At the last meet the press session, lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said domestic tourism was one area that had been totally overlooked. “We want to promote domestic tourism throughout the country, in terms of spirituality, culture, and wellness for Bhutanese,” lyonchoen had said. “There’s a lot of potential for domestic tourism that hasn’t been tapped yet.”

While most tour operators agreed there was potential in domestic tourism, they said it would be difficult without government support.  Tour operators are looking at agro, spiritual, and wellness tourism.

“There should be certain guidelines from the government to help tour operators cater to domestic tourists,” a tour operator said. “Promoting domestic tourism would also take time.”

But some said it was time tour operators became creative, instead of only waiting for dollar paying tourists. “Domestic tourism is a wonderful way of making tourism sustainable in Bhutan,” another tour operator said.

However, some tour operators were not so keen about the initiative.  They said most Bhutanese would never want to spend the same amount of money they spend for pilgrimage tours in India and Nepal in Bhutan.

“Transportation and accommodation should be cheap and good, if Bhutanese are to travel within Bhutan,” a tour operator said. “The ground realities are different from what’s on paper and what policy makers think of.”

As most Bhutanese, who travel on pilgrimage, are elderly people, tour operators said accessibility and infrastructure for old age should be improved if they are to promote religious trips, for instance.

Few tour operators today cater to domestic tourists.  They offer nature-based tourism activities, like river rafting and camping for about Nu 10,000 but it’s a niche market.

“It’s difficult to capture the domestic market, as most people don’t have the purchasing power yet, while those who spend are just a small section of the society,” a tour operator said.

Meanwhile, during winters, more than a hundred Bhutanese leave every day for pilgrimage from the border town of Phuentsholing to India through travel agents.

By Kinga Dema