TCB proposes to resume tourism in March

Yangyel Lhaden

The long-awaited tourism policy could materialise within weeks as the Cabinet has approved in principle.

Foreign Minister Lyonpo Tandi Dorji, who is also the chairperson of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), was asked about the progress on the policy during the question hour session at the National Assembly (NA), yesterday.

After the session, Lyonpo told Kuensel that the draft policy would be submitted to the Cabinet for final approval within two weeks.

He said that TCB had proposed to open the country tourism by March next year to the National Covid-19 task force but the decision would solely depend on Covid-19 situation.

“TCB is proposing to open a gateway whereby tourist can pre-book their travel to Bhutan by March so that they can visit when Covid-19 eases,” Lyonpo said.

Wamrong MP Karma Thinley questioned the minister how TCB was handling the Covid-19 situation, new strategies and plan to recover.

Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said that with the adoption of tourism policy it would strengthen the principle of “high-value, low volume” and the sector would grow stronger.

Some of TCB’s initiatives for the recovery of the sector are boosting eco-tourism, plan on year-round tourism, promotion of Brand Bhutan, and improving tourism sites, and regional balance of tourism.

Druk Neykor, a collaboration of TCB with Commission for the Monastic Affairs of Bhutan, is going to be launched on the National Day with pilgrimage to 16 holy-sites in Thimphu.

With Druk Neykor, 108 pilgrimage destinations are recorded. A recognition certificate would be given to persons on completion of the pilgrimage.

Lyonpo said, “Today, people are interested in domestic pilgrimage and there is a good opportunity.”

For regional balance, the entry point for tourist would be made in Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu. And eco-tourism is concentrated in the eastern region.

The TCB is also boosting Brand Bhutan and advertising about it on CNN.

Lyonpo told Kuensel that craftsmen were being trained to produce Bhutanese products. “Huge tax would be imposed on imported handicraft products to encourage local products.”

Last year, 200,900 tourists visited the country and earned USD 225 million.  Only 28,000 tourists visited the country this year and generated USD 19 million in revenue.

There are 50,737 individuals solely dependent on tourism for livelihood and 28,159 are kidu recipients. So far, the government has spent Nu 289 million on hotels used for quarantine.

People affected by tourism have been engaged in beautifying tourism hotspots in 14 sites. Between March and June, the government spent Nu 102 million employing 1,151 tourism employees to beautify tourism hotspots, building toilet, and cleaning campaign.

The government is spending Nu 111 million on beautification till December where 600 unemployed employees from tourism for beautifying the sites.

The tourism sector employees are also engaged in upskilling programmes such as foreign language courses for guides, and culinary training for cooks and chefs at the Royal Institute for Tourism and Hospitality.