Uncertain pandemic situation hindering tourism efforts

Yangchen C Rinzin 

In an effort to ease restrictions on travel and revive the tourism sector, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) proposed bubble tourism to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the health ministry in September. 

Bubble tourism, also known as green lanes, travel corridors, and corona corridors, is essentially an exclusive travel partnership between two or more countries that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council also approached the TAG to do away with the 21-day quarantine or reduce the number to about three days or continue with 21-day quarantine where the cost would be agreed between tourist agents and tourists in advance. 

Under the arrangement, the participating countries agree on special travel arrangements by opening up borders and allowing their people to travel freely in their countries without having to undergo mandatory on-arrival quarantine. 

The proposal, however, is still not finalised owing to pandemic situation. 

TCB director general Dorji Dhradhul said that the modalities on how to carry forward bubble tourism are yet to be finalised.  However, deciding on it was hampered by the changing situation of the pandemic in different countries. 

“The situation may not be worse in Bhutan, but the situation in many countries has not yet improved,” the director general said. “Bubble tourism can happen if only both countries agree.”

With Covid-19 cases increasing globally and also in Bhutan, Dorji Dhradhul said that it would be too early to implement bubble tourism. “So, we couldn’t finalise anything and take forward the proposal. It’ll take time to implement, and it’s uncertain.”

The decision to have bubble tourism should be bilateral between two countries, as bubble tourism is not possible without a partner.

“We feel we should not rush it because even if we push the other country may not agree,” director general said. 

Bhutan has not shortlisted any country as a partner for bubble tourism as of now. 

“Even if we shortlist, they may not agree which is why we’re not able to have any concrete decision on the proposal yet.”

Tourism has remained closed since the first Covid-19 case was detected in March. 

TCB has foregone revenue to the extent of more than 90 percent of the total earning in 2019. The sector last year generated USD 345 million in revenue from about 315,599 tourists.

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