The flagship programme for tourism is yet to be approved since there are no details planned for the flagship nor the plans listed, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said at meet the press yesterday.

“We’re still in the planning stage and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is already working on it,” Lyonchhen said. “If they qualify and impress us, we will allow them to have a flagship programme.”

Lyonchhen assured that once it qualifies as a flagship programme, the government would support it in terms of human resources, monitory and a day-to-day support so that it does not fail as a flagship package.

The responsibility now for the new leadership at TCB is to formulate plans and policies to make tourism a yearlong activity and redefine high value-low impact.

“It should also bring other forms of tourists besides cultural tourists, take tourists to the south for specific reasons and bring tourists during winter. These are the guidelines we gave TCB to work on and as they finish they would present it to the government.”

Lyonchhen said it is important to develop flagship programmes to develop and promote tourism. However, it is not only the job of TCB alone, but involves multiple stakeholders including media.

“Once the flagship for tourism gets approved, we all will have additional responsibility to promote tourism in Bhutan. We are discussing on the flagship programmes and we are trying to diversify but we should make sure it doesn’t go against the national interest of keeping it low impact.”

Lyonchhen added that flagship programme would understand the mood of tourists, survey the kind of interests they could experience in Bhutan apart from tshechus, explore trekking during winter or in the snow, bird watching or fishing, or sports like bungee jumping and paragliding.

“When I say flagship, it is a package whereby multi-sectorial involvement is required, coordinated by the highest offices and after assuming my office, I took over all flagship programmes,” Lyonchhen said. “In the 12th Plan and we’ve approved only two programmes so far, which are one product one gewog and water flagship because these are absolutely required programmes.”

The remaining programmes needed some modification and tourism is one of them.

TCB’s director general Dorji Dhradul who also attended the session said that the constant challenge in the tourism sector is they do not have a strong regulatory or monitoring in practice.

“This is something that would be taken care of in the flagship programme and maybe TCB will get additional people,” he said. “This is because we are unable to monitor right now from lack of human resources.”

On balanced regional development in tourism, Lyonchhen said the government couldn’t divide the number of tourists coming into Bhutan equally to all the 20 dzongkhags,

“This is absolutely not possible and not required also. However, we will definitely focus on redistributing the benefits that we get from the tourists to all dzongkhags in terms of social development.”

Yangchen C Rinzin