Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Bhutan’s Culture of Mulling: Part I

It is incredible that the government is still “mulling” over the issue of the URGENT need for a major reduction in the fares charged by the DrukAir - a state owned air transport company that is single-handedly jeopardizing the country’s tourism business and, consequently, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Bhutanese people.

The DrukAir and how it is functioning is a living example why certain state apparatus should not be accorded autonomy - they tend to go against the state’s larger interests, in order that they are able to protect some private interests. The DrukAir is not only causing problem to heir own solvency, but their irresponsible behavior causes problem at many levels:
  1. Loss of company business to competing airlines in the region - because they are priced too high compared to other players playing the field;
  2. Loss of revenue to the company through loss of turnover - because what business that can be had – is being channeled to the competitors;
  3. Diversion of Bhutanese tour operators’ business to the competition across the border - because the inbound/outbound tourists find it cheaper to fly the Bagdogra route thereby preferring to employ operators in Jaigaon - instead of the Bhutanese tour operators who are going out of business for want of work;
  4. Loss of billions in foreign exchange: the Indian Rupee - because neither the airfare nor the SDF, or the tour payments are received in Indian Rupees because the Jaigaon operators pocket the inflow of Indian currency and payments to Bhutanese authorities and service providers are made in local currency; and
  5. Loss of billions in foreign exchange: third country currency such as $$ …. Because the dollar paying potential visitors find the air fare too expensive – thus choosing competing destinations such as Sikkim, Darjeeling and Nepal, for their annual holiday trips.
It is truly mystifying why the DHI and the DrukAir and the RGoB are still unwilling to act - even after it is clear that the airline is all set to sink the country’s tourism business 10 ft. deep into the ground.

What exactly is the matter? I am beginning to wonder - something sinister is afoot! I mean even a kid of 10 years can understand that the surest way to sink oneself is by out-pricing oneself from the market. Why is the DrukAir doing it? And when one is operating as a near monopoly in a restricted market on whom depends a few hundred other institutions of commerce, it is evil that one should behave thus!
  1. The Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) is not doing anything;
  2. The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) is not doing anything;
  3. The Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) is not doing anything;
  4. The Handicrafts Association of Bhutan (HAB) is not doing anything;
  5. The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) is not doing anything; and
  6. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is not doing anything.
As a last resort, can we now appeal to the Parliament of Bhutan to do something about it?

Does the Parliament have the right to intervene when it is obvious that the country's economy is being desecrated by some irresponsible agency of the state?


  1. Parliament passed the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan after “Thorough” “Research” and “Consultation” because it is our most important industry.

  2. Parliamentarians cannot see beyond their own noses. Look at PHPA 1? Is there any one MP disturbed by this project?

  3. Your information about pocketing SDF in INR by travel agents across the border is wrong.
    Immigration office accepts on INR when it comes to SDF for Indian nationals.

  4. Photographers should stick to what they do best. These baseless statements help no one. Else show the "billions" in losses and the Parliament and anyone else will listen.