The DRAFT “Tourism Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2022” tinkered by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is proposing that no vehicle intended for transporting tourists should be over 7 years old. There are a host of problems with this. In the hope of contributing to the seamless transformation process, and in line with the TCB’s wishes, I would like to offer my following thoughts, although so far there is no indication that citizen’s suggestions count for anything.
The Toyota Land Cruiser Model FJ40 I drove during 1978/79 when I was on deputation from the government to the private sector in Phuentsholing. Two years back I saw this vehicle still on the road - after nearly 48 years of its manufacture!
What is the rationale behind introducing the age limit? And why 7 years? TCB ought to know that even Singapore allows the use of a vehicle for 15 years - 10 years during the initial COE (Certificate of Entitlement) period and then 5 additional years upon renewal of the CEO.
What is the co-relation between the age and roadworthiness of a vehicle?
Efficiency or roadworthiness of a vehicle is not determined by age. TCB ought to know that given Bhutan’s difficult terrain, some vehicles may be 10 years old but may not have run 30,000 KMs. TCB ought to know further that in outside countries - vehicles are driven hundreds of KMs a day - in Bhutan given our compactness and proximity, we barely drive 20 KMs in a day. In cities like New York and Tokyo, people drive over 400 KMs a day, to get to, and back, from work. Thus their MTBF would be 20-30 times shorter than those vehicles in Bhutan. By the way MTBF stands for: Million Times Before Failure. I am employing this term for want of a better one. This is a computer hard disk related terminology of yore. The older generation of computer hard disks use to be made that had moving parts - I am told that they are now solid state, meaning no moving parts. The hard disk manufacturers use to guarantee a hard disk to a set number of million spins before they break down.
So is it possible that the TCB consider the total mileage on the Mile-O-Meter, instead of the age of the vehicle? I am sure this is a much more educated route to take. I have seen the Toyota Land Cruiser short body that I use to drive in 1978/79 still going blazing guns!
I do not believe that the TCB’s consideration is environmental - if it were, all other vehicles in the country should be made to taste their acid. Why single out tourist carrying vehicles?
I do not think that the consideration is economic either - because if a country like Singapore that is many generations ahead of Bhutan in terms of economic competence, accepts that a vehicle can serve a maximum of 15 years, Bhutan certainly should go 20 - 30 years, given our level of economic development, by comparison.
If the TCB carries through their proposal, I believe that 70-80% of the vehicles used by the Bhutanese tour operators will need to be taken off the Bhutanese roads – because most of the vehicles used for transporting tourists are bound to be over 7 years old. Against the backdrop of the recently introduced ban on import of vehicles, replenishing 70-80% of the disallowed vehicles will mean direct conflict with the ban. Will the Finance Ministry allow that?
Even if the Finance Ministry allows it, who has the money to import vehicles costing few millions, for a business that everyone believes is on uncertain footing? Brought on by the pandemic, citizens are in a situation where they are unsure as to where their next meal is coming from.
Please have a care for the bleeding tourism industry - the industry does not need a hundred new rules instructing how its business should be run - I believe that the industry players are eons ahead of the TCB in how tourism business is to be conducted. The industry hungers for just one or two progressive policies that will help them set off on the road to recovery - after over two and half years of twiddling their thumbs, in hopeful anticipation of better times.