Taking tourism to the top means looking inward first. The industry could easily be the top revenue generator for the country. In fact, it already is the second biggest contributor to the nation’s economy. But what does it really mean, making tourism the country’s leading contributor to Bhutan’s economic development? Do we fully understand the enormity of the vision before us? Done it wrong, the way the intent of balance has been spelt out, repercussions could be far-reaching – not necessarily a happy one.
Now that we have begun, we have only to ride the tide in the best of the spirit.
Taking tourism to the top has been made to understand in the way that it is now easily, unfortunately, come to mean striking regional balance. Some members of the Parliament have already started asking questions as to whether dividing the number of tourists visiting the country might not be the best option to ensure regional balance of tourism’s benefits.
Making all the dzongkhags saleable to the visitors will be a challenge. With some, we might not even succeed. And there is always the danger of duplication. Visitors will not choose to go to the farthest corner of the country to witness and experience the same things that they can about Bhutan in the dzongkhags that are more accessible.
The government has allocated Nu 1.5 billion to promote tourism for research, training, branding, promotion of dzongkhags and regions. Some dzongkhags have already been identified as the focus dzongkhag. All that is good. But much will depend on how the available resources are used to achieve the so-called regional balance.
There are also challenges that we need to address in the process. Regional tourism is increasingly becoming an issue and the suggestion from some quarters is to put a cap on the number of visitors. If these things are as they are because immigration offices in the entry points are not well established, it is a lost argument. Taking tourism to the top to achieve regional balance will require a major overhaul. It might even demand change in high value and low impact policy.
Taking tourism to the top for national revenue is good, achieving regional balance with it all the better. But there is every chance of things falling out of place. Lawmakers and stakeholders must, therefore, give all their best for the sake of the nation’s economic development long-term future.