Tourism reopening expected this fall

… However, there are no concrete decisions yet

Tourism industry in the country has been idle for the past two years, the government is expecting to reopen tourism this fall.

Restarting tourism in the country will adopt a new reform package.

The government is discussing to completely scrapping the mandatory quarantine in the country for inbound travelers and consequently opening the tourism sector too, said foreign affairs minister, Dr Tandi Dorji.

Lyonpo said, the formal opening of the tourism will require some time. “It will be most probably around the fall because it needs lots of preparations, and changes for the reform package,” added Lyonpo.

He elaborated that ‘businesses cannot be as usual like in the past, we are making lots of changes and we must learn the lessons from COVID-19. The lessons are learned and incorporated and they are put into a new reform package.’

The reforms will be ready very soon within the month of May, then, the government will give one or two months of preparation time to the hoteliers and all the stakeholders.

However, Lyonpo said ‘there are no concrete decisions as of now, the government is still working on it,” adding a formal announcement is expected when the reform package is ready, it will hopefully come out within the next few weeks.’

Lyonpo said: “The government will open the tourism sector with renewed impetus in the long interest of the country.”

According to the State of The Nation report, the direct reduction in tourism earnings is estimated at 40 percent for financial year (2020) and 100 percent for financial year (2021) as international tourism has not yet resumed as of September 2021. On a calendar year basis, gross receipts fell by 92 percent to $19.84 million in 2020, from $225.87 million in 2019. Direct revenue is estimated to have dropped by 90.4 percent to $2.63 million in 2020, from $27.23 million in 2019.

According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) report of ‘Lessons from coping with the pandemic in a tourism-dependent economy’ (December, 2021), it states the tourism sector is strategic for Bhutan on multiple fronts. In the years prior to the pandemic, the sector was a strong driver of growth that also facilitated the growth of auxiliary sectors such as transport, hotels and accommodations, and handicrafts. Tourism inflows in the last five years grew at a near compounded annual average of 30 percent.

The report further states that during the pandemic, 50,737 people from the tourism sector have been affected directly and indirectly.

A rapid socioeconomic assessment conducted by the United Nations Development Programme and the National Statistics Bureau involved the designing of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for Tourism (MVI-T) which identified eight deprivations: (i) income loss, (ii) coping strategy, (iii) loss of livelihood, (iv) food security, (v) limited savings, (vi) indebtedness, (vii) vulnerable household members, and (viii) tourism dependence, states the report.

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