Way forward for Tourism Industry in Bhutan


Seasonality issues, rise in the number of tour operators and less support from the government are the main concerns of the tourism industry today.
This was highlighted yesterday at the ongoing Better Business Summit.
One of the panelists at the forum, Association of Bhutan Tour Operators’ (ABTO) president Karma Lotay said low tourist arrival during the lean season calls for attention.
“Hotels, buses, and tour guides remain idle during the leaner months,” he said, adding the peak season lasted for only for five months in a year.
“It is timely to rethink on how we can improve and benefit,” he said.
Another panelist, Tourism Council of Bhutan’s (TCB) Thuji Nadik said seasonality is something the sector has to live with.
“We should rather try to increase the yield,” he said.
The need to control the number of tour operators was also highlighted.
The information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinlay Dorji said market forces should be respected and tour operators should be allowed.
Thuji Nadik said that although a new regulation for tour operators was in place, it is yet to be implemented.
“The service sector has been slightly neglected with less financial allocation from the economic stimulus plan as well,” he said.
On the question raised by participants about the quality of services, particularly food that has been criticised often, over the years, Thuji Nadik said TCB was aware of it.
“We conducted a comprehensive training needs assessment for which an HRD master plan was required,” he said. “However, the labour ministry had already come out with their master plan and our assessment got lost somewhere.”
Participants also asked the panelists on “mass tourism”, to which ABTO president Karma Lotay said it was not meant for Bhutan.
“A growing market is important but a balanced growth is a must,” he said. “High value, low impact policy is most important.”
The chief financial officer of Chiva- Som International in Thailand, Dr Thansir Chaturongkul said Bhutan has a great potential to become a wellness tourism destination.
“Initially, you will need to hire experts from abroad and buy equipment,” he said. “For this, issuance of work permits and procurement procedures must be made easier.”
Wellness tourism today constitutes 14 percent of the total tourism industry globally. It also grows 50 percent faster than other tourism. Spa and fitness, physiotherapy, and aesthetic medicines are some of the activities under wellness tourism.
While Bhutan’s tourism strategy in the next five years has prioritised the need for a comprehensive review of supply chain linkages, additional work is required to understand the functioning of tourism economy.
A comprehensive review, therefore, would enhance the sector to estimate income and employment levels, and strategies to reduce imports and boost local benefits.
By Kuensel online


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