English | Dzongkha Thursday, November 21, 2019

NC questions government’s tourism policy

Komal Kharka, Thimphu
Jun 15, 2019

The number of regional tourists visiting Bhutan has almost doubled in the past couple of years. From 132,594 visitors in 2016, the number went up to 222,904 regional tourists that visited the country last year.

The increase has also resulted in huge pressure on the existing infrastructure and public utilities such as water supply, sewerage and also aggravated the housing shortage problem. While questioning the Foreign Minister the National Council asked on the government’s policies to address the issue.

The National Council deliberated issues related to the tourism sector during the 15th and 16th session. Concerns on the lack of comprehensive tourism policy and the legal shortcoming due to the absence of a law to regulate the sector were also deliberated. The MPs said the Policy of ‘High Value, Low Volume’ had been progressively eroded due to lack of clear policy directions.

The National Council also raised concerns on unregulated tourism which could pose several social, cultural and ecological problems in the country. The Council recommended the need to require regional tourists to use local agents, guides and transport companies for their safety and to ensure that unregulated and unguided tourists do not come to conflict with the laws and cause social, religious and cultural offences unknowingly.

Most recently there has also been growing public concerns on the overcrowding of temples and monasteries where local people feel like foreigners in their own land and are not able to observe prayers and religious ceremonies.

Responding to the question the foreign Minister highlighted on the income generated from the regional tourism. He said the tourism industry contributes over 85 million US dollar every year and out of which 74% is the regional tourist. However, acknowledging the issued related to uncontrolled tourism he assured to come up with the tourism policy by early next year.

“We’re talking with the government of India. We are focusing on sustainable development fee and we have discussed this thoroughly. But we could not yet come to any conclusions. We decided to collect a nominal fee of Nu 3000 from each tourist or a daily fee of Nu 300 per day per person. We have planned to charge more fees during the peak season and bring it down in the off seasons. However, the Indian government suggested to us to give a definite intake of regional tourists. They also agreed with us in bringing more regional tourists during the off-season,” Dr Tandi Dorji, the Foreign Minister said.

He added that the policy will focus on the compulsory need of passports for the tourist, explore tourism in places like Gelegphu and Samdrup Jongkhar, and impose green tax for the Indian vehicles bringing in tourists among others. However, the tourism bill will be tabled in next year’s parliament session.

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