Sunday, May 1, 2022

There Never Was A Ban On Tourism

Hi Kris,

Nice to hear back from you. Good to know that you are all well and safe.

Yes indeed the mad man Putin has lost his marbles and is causing misery to millions across the glob. Obviously, as a member of the inter-connected global community, we in Bhutan too are impacted due to rising costs and shortage of supplies – in addition to the difficulties caused by the pandemic. But we are surviving.

You are right – tourism is our most vital industry and it is at a standstill – we are pushing hard for the reopening of the tourism – but there is this five days quarantine requirement for international travelers that is a huge deterrent. It is our hope that the government would lift that soon. Actually it is not that there is a ban on tourists entering Bhutan – there never was one - tourists were always welcome to come any time but the requirements for their eligibility to enter Bhutan during the pandemic were extremely discouraging - not suited to the majority of our class of visitors.

The industry players were in a state of utter confusion - caused by incoherence in the pronouncement of policies related to tourism in the country.

As you know, cost is not the only determining factor – time is even more important to the class of people to whom Bhutan appeals.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan’s "BHUTAN TOURISM MONITOR 2020" records that the average length of stay by tourists in Bhutan is six nights. This clearly means that our tourists will not want to languish in a quarantine facility - five nights of the six nights they want to spend here.

I get the sense that as long as we are fully vaccinated, the present Omicron variant of COVID-19 should not be any cause for serious worry – unless a more lethal variant emerges. So I do not believe that the cause for our government’s dithering is the fear of the virus. Bhutan is said to have achieved “herd immunity”.

So, if you are planning to come to Bhutan – now is the time to start planning your travel itinerary.

Wolfgang wrote back too – saying that he is fine and safe. By the way could you please send me a digital copy of my article in the Festschrift publication? Thanks.

Bye and take care …. and please keep safe.


    Many things are brewing in our land of happiness! Decent human beings, beloved by the people they served, are being 'managed out'. A Dzongdag, who gets the job done while still well-liked and respected by the people, may not be the most eloquent in English. Which trait is more important for Bhutan? The assessment of our executives is a long time coming, and Bhutan will be the better for it in the long run. But, 'how did we get here in the first place?' While the present interventions are remedying symptoms, it is equally, if not more important to address root causes.

    1. The 'selection' process is flawed as can be seen when candidates for senior executives are submitted for final 'selection.' This is a clever way to make it seem like every executive's final appointment is done upon selection (not just approval) by the highest order. This washes the responsibility off the people who are supposed to make this objective HR decision based on merits of the candidates and drags the highest order into this mundane task that should have been executed by the Commission. When the candidate performs well, that's okay; but when they perform poorly, people look at each other and say 'well, he/she was appointed by the highest order. What can we do?' This is not fair or necessary. People entrusted with the power and responsibility should use them judiciously and not pass the buck higher up.

    2. Beyond the RCSC, there are far too many people making parallel decisions to appoint people who will listen to them. This has gone unchecked for too long and undermines the maturing of the country as a vibrant democracy. This group is dangerous for the country, and is the source of what is causing low morale in the civil service. This kind of behaviour breeds suspicion and mistrust in society. Even the final list of executives who passed or were ‘managed out’ reeks of manipulation because there was such a degree of opacity and lack of transparency.

    3. Previous OD exercises in the civil service are largely to blame for the screwed up system that we have now. Many people specialized in their fields have been sent out to pasture as 'specialists' who have no say in management. In some peoples' minds, a professional has no executive management capacity - when in fact, many specialists are excellent executives globally. In Bhutan, we now have a small group of people calling the shots because they learnt fast how to game the system.

    Another matter making the news lately is the new political party. It doesn't seem to matter that one candidate insulted his voter constituents by abandoning his elected post for personal interest when he knew that there was no way to be a cabinet member. There was no apology - he just resigned and took off. What guarantee is there that he will not abandon ship again if the going gets tough? Another candidate ran a failed company that duped thousands of villagers into accepting thousands of trees of an exotic species that literally bore no fruit (pun intended) - in fact when people talk about FDIs, the common joke you hear is 'I hope it is not like the Hazelnut Project.' Yet another one was so arrogant that he was reprimanded by the highest order. We don't even have to talk about the mess that the capital city is in (including corruption at the Thromde itself - ask anyone building a house in Thimphu), including the useless parking structures that were dubiously constructed. And of course, now they all promise to bring a different kind of politics to the people, for 'they are no two-faced politicians' (thereby insinuating that every other political party or politicians are in fact two-faced). They know all too well that the country is facing an economic hardship at the moment, and of course they 'want to make the country rich.' That is their campaign ploy. What a bunch of baloney. If it is anything like the garbage secretive draft economic roadmap that exists somewhere, we want no part of it. Like many lofty ideals, we stumble on the ground below even as we look at the clouds above.

  2. Well stated.