Impact of Regional Tourists on Bhutan’s Tourism Policy

Email

Regional tourists, especially from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries do not have to pay the USD 200 to 265 a day but just the minimum arrival visa fee.

Royal Highlands of Laya. (Source: www.drukasia.com)

 

Bhutan is a small landlocked country, which thrives on tourism as one of the biggest revenue earners after the sector of hydropower. The tourism industry is also one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country.

As the tourism industry grows, there is a need for a strong regulation and policy concerning regional tourists, as it might affect the tourism policy of high-value low impact.

Regional tourists, especially from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries do not have to pay the USD 200 to 265 a day but just the minimum arrival visa fee.

Consequences of regional tourism

These regional tourists visit the country unguided and drive their own vehicles without any restrictions in any part of the country. They carry their own rations and picnic around the country, often dirtying the places.

The tour operators also say that with the increasing number of regional tourists, the quality of services rendered to the high-end tourists is deteriorating.

When tourism was first started in Bhutan in 1974, the number of international tourists were high. However, in 2015 from the total of 155,000 tourists, 70 percent are regional tourists.

According to a report, tourism registered 16.21 percent growth, which translates to 155,121 arrivals. Of the total number of arrivals, 57,537 were international visitors and 97,584 were from the regional market.

Negative impact of regional tourism

A tour operator, who chose to remain anonymous, said that with the unmanaged restrictions in opening the doors to regional tourism, this could have a negative impact in the future.

"Strong regulation and policy concerning regional tourists should be in place so that the tourism policy of high-value and low-impact would not be affected," he said.

He also said that tourism should be promoted and we should also make sure that it does not have an adverse impact on the stature of Bhutan as a high-end travel destination.

He added that the regional tourist should hire and be accompanied by local professional tour guides.

Another tour operator, Sonam Dorji said that regional tourists driving their own vehicles overcrowd the tourist sites and which not only hampers the business of the tour operators but also causes pollution.

"If the country's tourism policy of high-value and low-impact is to be preserved, there must be some intervention before it is too late," he said.

Bhutan is today counted among the top high-end tourist destinations in the world.

According to the 2016 Bhutan Tourism Monitor report, a total of 146,797 regional tourists visited Bhutan in 2016, of which 138,201 were Indians and 8,596 were Bangladeshis.

Of the total, 69 percent arrives overland and the rest by air.

While international tourism is regulated by a minimum daily tariff mechanism, and a mandatory need to come through a licensed tourist operator route with local guides, regional tourists are exempted from such requirements.

Tour operators agreed that to streamline and regulate regional tourism, all the regional visitors should come through hotels and tour local operators.

Even the parliamentarians discussed the issue in the joint sitting on December 6.

The minister of economic affairs, Lekey Dorji, said that regional tourists have benefitted the hoteliers and handicraft sectors.

Special friendship offers implemented

"With fewer tourists visiting during the lean season, special friendship offers were made to Thailand and Japan in the past and an offer was also provided to South Korea to celebrate 30 years of friendship this year," he said.

He also said that friendship offer to Australia has also been submitted.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is also working on opening a regional tourism office in the east and central region to facilitate tourism development.

The TCB has already submitted an action plan on the drafting of the tourism policy.

 

By Chimi Wangmo for the New Bhutan Times.


Related Posts

Thimphu Tschechu 2017 - A Visual Feast

Tschechu, meaning ‘tenth day’ also corresponds to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). This festival is a...

Oct 06, 2017 18:29

Dochula Tschechu – Truly Captivating!

What makes the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival unique is that while the mask dances performed elsewhere in Bhutan are...

Nov 24, 2017 05:19

Pray to Conceive at the Chimi Lhakhang

For couples who longed to have children, miracles were said to have happened after they have received fertility...

Nov 08, 2017 08:44

Royal Highland Festival in Laya

To make Laya a tourist destination, the first edition of the highland festival contributed about Nu 5 million to the...

Oct 29, 2017 10:08

Journey to the Fascinating Royal Highland Festival in Laya

Chimi Wangmo, based in Thimphu, traversed through beautiful landscapes to witness the fascinating Royal Highland...

Dec 07, 2017 09:18

The Black-Necked Crane Festival

The arrival of the black-neck cranes signals the coming of winter and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the...

Nov 01, 2017 13:54

Latest

News

National Assembly Election 2018: Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa And Druk Phuensum Thosgpa Through To General Round

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa secured 92,722 votes and Druk Phuensum Thosgpa secured 90,020 votes.

Sep 15, 2018 21:50

Samdrup Jongkhar Aims To Be The First Plastic Free Town In Bhutan

It may take time for Samdrup Jongkgar to become a completely plastic-free town but the residents will work towards fulfilling this dream...

Sep 11, 2018 16:56

Features

Drukgyel Dzong Which Used To House Sacred Bhutanese Documents Lost to A Fire In 1951, To Be Restored By 2022

The reconstruction works began in April 2016 after the command of His Majesty The King to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness (HRH)...

Sep 17, 2018 15:42

11 Year Old Author Revives Forgotten Snowball Culture Of ‘Khakey’ In Bhutan

Khakey is a custom that originated in Western Bhutan and was popular a few generations ago.

Sep 13, 2018 19:27

Sports

Bhutanese Female Athlete Aces In Athletics And Boxing While Juggling Studies

Tandin was selected to compete at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia last month.

Sep 09, 2018 17:24

An American Won The Breath-Taking 268km Tour Of The Dragon Mountain Bike Race In Bhutan

The 268 km race is considered as the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world.

Sep 05, 2018 16:30

Business

Cultivation Of Avocado Looks Set To Take Off In Tsirang, Bhutan

A few farmers have already started selling avocados in the Sunday vegetable market for about Nu 250-350 a kilogram.

Sep 18, 2018 15:38

BEBL Group Aims To Export Bhutan’s Finest Agro-Products To New Markets Such As The Middle-East

Most of the Bhutanese commodities are absorbed within the Indian market, BEBL feels that the farmers are deprived of their deserving market...

Sep 14, 2018 17:52

Travel

Handicrafts Shops Thrives In Paro Selling Bhutanese Textile, Paintings, Bamboo Products And More

With businesses picking up fast as a result of the tourism boom, the handicraft shops in Paro have even formed a committee with a...

Sep 16, 2018 14:56

Be Awe-Inspired By The ‘Dance Of The Terrifying Gods’ And More At The Thimphu Tshechu Which Starts On 19 Sept

Held from 19 to 21 Sept 2018, the annual Thimphu Tshechu (festival) is a vibrant visual feast for both locals and foreigners.

Sep 12, 2018 20:45

Lifestyle

Miniature Bhutan Creates Amazing Artworks Out Of Pencil Lead And Rice Grains

Miniature Bhutan carves on the lead of pencil tips to make traditional miniature sculptures such as the Buddha, traditional bridges, swords...

Sep 10, 2018 12:44

Bhutan Buy - E-Commerce Platform Seeks To Promote Sale Of Bhutanese Products And Change The Way Bhutanese Shop

Samir Pradhan started Bhutanbuy, an e-commerce company, the first of its kind in Bhutan.

Sep 06, 2018 23:30

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!