The tour operators in the country have mixed feelings about the new tourism policy. While they all agree that the policy will benefit the country in the long run, they fear the price they pay will equally be high. In the new tourism policy with an increased Sustainable Development Fee of 200 USD per person, tourists will no longer have to necessarily route through tour operators.
The new tourism policy has the tour operators worried since tourists will no longer have to compulsorily come through them. However, they are hopeful that it will give them an opportunity to improve themselves.
“It may be difficult for a year or two because we are moving into a new policy. But in the long run, it is going to be good. Jumping to an SDF of USD200 from USD65 is not a joke, so we would need a lot of creativity, innovation, and dialogues,” said Namgay Dorji, the Proprietor of Bhutan Majestic Travel.
Some operators also claim that hiking the SDF abruptly was not wise and it came as a blow to them.
“I don’t see a good scope of business, especially for smaller hotels and smaller travel agents. Whatever it is, this is like a new revolution, let’s see what happens. We are prepared to face the challenge,” said Tshering Penjor, the Proprietor of Bhutan Personal Tour.
“Maybe for our country and future generation, it’s a good initiative. But small tour operators like us are having a very tough time. Many are losing jobs. No one is confident about it. I definitely welcome this reform as it’s high time for our country,” added Tenzin Yeshi, the Proprietor of Himalayan Travel Experts. He however says the initiative costs him the cancellation of 42 tourists from Poland. “I am also very sceptical about how the new system would function.”
“We all are quite nervous about the new policy. I only hope that it serves a better purpose as the government has proposed. For the mid and small operators, many have already been thrown out of business due to the pandemic and now with the new policy, many would continue to close. As far as I am concerned, I have been receiving many calls as to why it is very expensive. I think we have to strategize marketing to target high-end markets,” said Langa Dorji, the Proprietor of Bhutan Soul Tour and Travel.
According to the Tourism Council of Bhutan, operators continue to play an important role. The new system is expected to allow innovation and creativity leading to greater competition and vibrant industry. Since the operators will be determined by the services they provide, operators will have to upgrade their roles in providing high-end products and services.
“It is not that the tour operators are not needed. They can continue with their role. It is just that guests will have more options in planning their tour. They can plan themselves or use tour operators. And after paying the SDF, the rest is up to them. The operators also have an option to get paid directly to their account,” said Damcho Rinzin, the Chief Tourism Officer at the TCB.
“As long as we pay USD200 to the government, we can charge whatever amount to the client. We can charge USD400 or 500. So, if you charge 500, you pay 200 to the government and the balance of 300 is yours. When we say yours, it is all about how you provide efficient personalized services to the client,” added Namgay Dorji of the Bhutan Majestic Travel.
Meanwhile, the TCB says it will continue to provide the platform for the operators to market their services.
Edited by Sonam