Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Whimper Of The MICE

It is sad - all that the collective brilliance of the RGoB, the DoI and the DoT - managed to do with their MICE Policy, is to put the proverbial Cart before the Horse - a dead one at that!

All dressed up in my Sunday best .... but nowhere to go

It is not my intention to rub salt into the wound but it is apparent that there is total misunderstanding of the purpose behind the government’s promulgation of the MICE policy.

MICE Tourism has to be seen as an important, and as an essential diversification, to our limited tourism product offering. If that is how it is to be viewed, why is it looked upon as something of a Soelra (gift)?

The MICE policy is, no doubt, a veiled attempt at stimulating visitor numbers. Then why are spouses of the participants not included in the rules? My own sense is that MICE tourism will work - we have the necessary conditions: peaceful, unhurried, clear blue skies, azure rivers meandering through lush green valleys, clean fresh air and, above all, NO HONKING!

MICE events are tax deductible and corporate sponsored events. Thus, participants to the event do not bear the cost - their employers do. Therefore, it is expected that there will be vigorous participation to the events.

A participant not accompanied by his spouse will share a room with another participant. On the other hand, MICE participants accompanied by spouses will need to be accommodated in double occupancy rooms - thereby contributing to doubling the numbers and higher spending. No way you can allow the women lot to be left behind - who will do the shopping at the Craft Bazaar?

Think like a Finance Manager - not an Accountant.

Sadly, it would appear that the RGoB’s cluelessness seems to be rubbing off to some of the industry players as well - look at the following confusion of the HRAB, reported in TheBhutanese:

The HRAB attributes it to the superior competence of the actors across the border - for the dramatic fall in hotel room occupancy. Nothing can be further from the truth!!!!

From my point of view, the falling numbers should be attributed to the twin disasters caused by:

a.  DrukAir’s atrociously high airfare - causing wholesale diversion of tourist traffic to points of entry
     - away from the traditional point of landing - Paro.

b.  Introduction of the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan 2022 that went on to demolish a brilliant
     business philosophy called: MDPR. For over half a century, the MDPR ensured that the
     government, including every tourist, every tour operator and every player in the tourism business
     chain stood to benefit from a policy that was the envy of the whole world - in its ingenuity and fair play.

Alas! now the fix-all formula is touted as the magic number of 300,000 tourist arrivals by the year end!

To be fair, it is not impossible to achieve the number - but the question that has so far REMAINED MUTE, is:


Will the targeted number improve the DRC’s tax collection? Will foreign exchange inflow improve? Will the promised increase in tourist arrivals prevent exodus of tour operators and guides to Australia and, grudgingly, to Canada and the Middle East? Will the numbers contribute to a jump in the Bhutanese tour operators’ income? Will the hotel owners see a quantum jump in their profits because of increased room occupancy? Or will their income dip even further, as a result of heightened competition in a situation where cash dealing is rampant and kick-back in one form or the other is now becoming an industry norm?

You can bet your last broken Chhetrum that no such thing will happen! The DrukAir will ensure that tourist traffic is continually diverted to competing operators and markets, while the current tourism policy will continue to encourage tax evasion and business outflow.

And sadly, unaware and unknown to the uncaring world, the phallus carver from remote Lhingzhi who used to sit by the road side in Chubachu carving wooden phalluses, has quietly passed away into the nether world - because his supply of alcohol ran out - because there were no tourists to buy his wooden phalluses that was his lifeline.


  1. Now, it is the Wild West! Once the 100USD per day is paid and visa obtained, undercutting starts, all cash payments at hotels, restaurants, everywhere - and nothing gets recorded. So, apart from the SDF, there is rampant tax evasion - and the country stands to lose revenue in every possible way. In the previous system, everything was recorded and you cannot escape tax levies. Everyone paid their part. Now, no more! In the end, internal revenue loses out big time. And this they call transformation! And no one is accountable for such a big damage to our economy.

    1. Thank God!! .... at least some one is getting .... what the Americans would say ... the drift.