Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bhutanese Tourism Industry Under Attack: II

The clarion call that is being sounded for the “liberalization” of tourism business is ill advised, poorly timed and based on all the wrong premises. Even worst, I believe that the pursuit of this agenda goes against Bhutan’s national interest and that the reversal of the present policy of “high value, low impact” has the potential to cause irreparable damage to many decades of careful planning and steady advancement.

The talk in the tourism circles is that the hotel lobby is behind the push for what they call the “liberalization” of the tourism trade and that they have enlisted the help of some of the National Council members to champion their cause. It is also rumored that sometime back the National Council members engineered a debate on the subject - at the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) in Phuentsholing - the motion for liberalization was defeated.

The Robin Hoods in the National Council will do well to remember that the House cannot be allowed to be used to further the cause of some select group of people. It must remain focused on issues that further the national interest.

In all fairness, I am not really sure if it is indeed the hotel lobby that is instigating the dangerous idea of “liberalization”, or some other interest group. But one thing is sure: the idea is ANTI-NATIONAL! The idea of “liberalization” as it is currently proposed is the very antithesis to our time-tested concept of “high value, low impact” tourism. It has the potential to devastate our tourism industry.

Let us examine the issues involved:

1.  The concept behind low volume, high value tourism
2.  The rationale and merit of the imposition of minimum daily tariff
3.  How is tourism traffic to Bhutan generated and who generates them
4.  The fuss about under-cutting
5.  Generation of foreign exchange and employment.

Demerits of “liberalization” as it is currently proposed:

1.  Influx of undesirable category of visitors
2.  Poor carrying capacity
3.  Social, cultural, religious and environmental impact of uncontrolled and unregulated tourism
4.  Increase in crime rate
5.  Plummeting foreign exchange inflow
6.  Offshore accounts
7.  Poor tax collection through evasion
8.  Loss of moral authority to regulate and impose minimum levels of service
     by tour operators and other service providers - market forces will reign supreme
9.  The role of the regulatory body will become redundant.

It is said that the only thing that is constant is: evolution. The human race is constantly evolving. Thus we must change and evolve to keep pace and be relevant to changing times and situations. However, change must be meaningful and progressive - not the kind of change we seek - destructive and ruinous.

............. to be continued

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