Yangchen C Rinzin 

The draft tourism policy of Bhutan 2020, which was expected to be approved in July, is now expected to be approved in November, according to Tourism Council of Bhutan’s  director-general, Dorji Dhradhul.

The draft policy that passed the review of Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) on July 3 was supposed to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

Dorji Dhradhul said that only two meetings were left to be held with the Cabinet. However, with prior engagement of the prime minister and absence of some ministers, the meeting could not take place.

“The dates for the meeting have been kept pushing or the quorum couldn’t be met. Otherwise, the policy is approved in principle by the GNHC and the draft was already presented at the dhensa meet,” Dorji Dhradhul said.

The draft policy, once approved, will be the first tourism policy document after tourism started in 1974. The tourism is otherwise based on vision of high value, low volume.

The delay in the approval of policy was also attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Dorji Dhradhul said TCB was hopeful it would be approved soon since the TCB has been given appointment in November first week to submit to the Cabinet.

“It will depend on this meeting if the policy would be approved,” Dorji Dhradhul said, adding that they are hopeful this time they can submit to the Cabinet for approval.

With the GNHC having screened and approved the policy, Dorji Dhradhul said that TCB was hopeful that no major changes would be made to the policy or Cabinet would reject since it has become important to have a policy.

Once the policy comes in and when tourism reopens after the Covid-19 pandemic, the government will have to take measures to promote tourism as a year-round activity. It also needs to 6encourage the spread of tourism activities in tourism deficient regions of Bhutan.

With the policy, it is also expected the government will have to support the tourism industry in the identification, development and promotion of tourism products and services to establish a year-round destination.

This means the visit of tourists would be spread over 12 months.

The draft policy would ensure that TCB in collaboration with local governments and relevant stakeholders would identify and develop tourism products and services to balance tourism in all the regions.

To avoid mass tourism, the government will manage and regulate by adopting appropriate pricing and other mechanisms like sustainable development fee and a minimum daily package rate, among others.

“The government should open new areas and sites for tourism. TCB should enhance initiatives to promote management of waste produced by the tourism sector,” the draft policy stated.

From the first group of 287 tourists visiting Bhutan in 1974, Bhutan received a total of 315,599 tourists in 2019, according to the TCB record. This is an increase of 15 percent over 2018.

The highest number of arrival is in April, May and October and the number drops by almost four percent between February and July.

The draft policy, once approved, would be reviewed at least once every five years and revised if necessary.