In total darkness

We’ll be up by five tomorrow morning, to take in the total eclipse of the sun from Kuenselphodrang. Many of my neighbours – indeed, many Bhutanese – will also enjoy this very rare natural phenomenon when the moon completely blocks out the sun. Bhutan, after all, falls bang on the path of the total eclipse.

But you won’t find many tourists. We didn’t market the occasion. The heavens have blessed Bhutan with the longest total eclipse, of about three minutes, in the 21st century. And we have not used it to boost tourism.

The Finance Minister reported today that, in 2008, about 27,000 tourists visited Bhutan, and that the government would generate revenue of about Nu 490.1 million from tourism. But, that the government expects tourist arrivals to decrease in 2009, due to the global recession, and that, as such, the government estimates revenue of only Nu 417 million during the 2009 – 10 financial year.

Yes, tourism generates important revenue for the government. But, more importantly, it creates jobs. And, it distributes wealth. So, we should not sit on our hands, waiting out the recession. We must be imaginative and proactive in marketing our wonderful country as a preferred tourist destination.

Just imagine: totality packages to Bhutan. Many tourists would have flocked here, and paid good money, to view the total eclipse of the sun from Tashichhodzong. Or from Trongsa Dzong. Or from the Phajoding lakes. Or from Laya. Or from Merak, if it is open to tourists. Or from any other part of our blessed kingdom.

 

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  1. Good thinking .. rite on track. But the tragedy is that neither the past nor the present government recognizes this and if they do, they choose to do nothing about it. The government refuses to release budget for improved of trails and mule tracks. The government knows only how to collect and not to spend – not knowing that spending means increasing collection.

    Hydro power is going to sink this country in the long run and yet the government is going full throttle with it. These projects do not generate jobs and it does not benefit the people directly although it does benefit the government. Of course it can be argued that benefit to government means benefit to people … but it is not the same unless of course the government begins to distribute cash which wont be the case.

  2. Few operators did market individually but TCB/Govt. should have taken advantage and promoted the event.
    I agree with the guest above…everybody looks at tourism/operators as “pot of gold” and everyone wants to dip in for their share. It is ridiculous that tour operators pay more in royalty than the actual margin they manage. Yet, government puts back nothing to improve tourism infrastructure or promote the nation. Instead, various ministries/departments are always on their toes to find means to impose more/new fees here, fees there!
    But getting back to the once in a century phenomenon of the morning, it was a emotional moment. As darkness descended cars passed with lights on and the piegons were fluttering around in confusion.

  3. yes,
    this would have been the very perfect time to communicate the magic of the kingdom of beautiful bhutan!
    how ever. the fact that bhutan is missing these chances is one reason why western tourists love bhutan for what it is. to us a parallel world full of unspoiled and true beauty.

    philip.

  4. OL la,
    Did you take a picture. Please share with us. How was the eclipse???

  5. The solar eclipse was an unforgetable experience. Our government and tour operators did not take the opportunity at its fullest. I was in need of a filter to watch the eclipse but our shops did not have it.

    OL la, you may request Yeshey Dorji, photographer for few shots and post it here la. He was in Dochula taking the photograph during the eclipse.

  6. Gee!!! I think Bhutanese still have not shunned the ” spoon Feeding Mentality”. How long can we depend on government even to advertise for tourist flux to view solar eclipse?? This is mad demand. Tour operators should have taken proactive action if they really want to earn extra dollar. Government can not do everything. Be realistic.

    Cheers

  7. Thinlay…you miss the point here. I am saying tour operators did market individually but due to expense, a quarter page ad in a popular travel magazine costs ranging between $2000 – $5000, and TV promotion costs six figures. Operators market but government should promote, it is not just about operators making money, more importantly about increased royalty and tax revenue to government coffers, employment, and general economic opportunity to various stakeholders starting from hoteliers, car owners, handicraft shops, artisans, yak and horse contractors. Therefore, as done in any other countries our governemnt should pro-actively promote. It is not about spoon feeding, it is about the government just gorging without re-investing! My two cents …la!

  8. Nedag – You do make total sense. I cannot agree enough with what you say here. Government spoon feeding the private sector is unheard of in Bhutan…I think. You name any venture or any sector in business. Name one organization in the government that is proactive to support the business community whole heartedly. Don’t get me wrong – we have great policies for the private sector laid out by the government but it is the narrow individuals in teh government that bar the private sector from growing. Many in different ministries are jealous of the success of the private sector individuals. Our new government should – under the leadership of the Prime minister and the OL lyonpo to overhaul the attitude of the government officials towards private sector. View everything in a broad manner that if the economy is to grow then pvt sector is to be encouraged. After all – don’t the officials always say that pvt sector is the engine of growth. Well the engine is there for a long time but lubrication is necessary from time to time to make it run well. Only then will harmony prevail and will everyne gain with total synergy.

  9. Thinlay says:

    I would like to take a position here. Government did and does support pvt. sector development interms of loan scheme, award of construction works, procurement of materials, creation of BCCI and enact enabling legal environment to facilitate pvt. sector development. But the problem is Bhutanese lack enterprenurial spirit. They are after quick buck with less effort. They do not invest in R&D which is a must for prosperious pvt.sector. They construct shoddy houses and bad roads, employ cheap outside labors instead of bhutanese..the list goes on. Unless, pvt.sector wakes up from deep slumber and shun quick money making mentality and invest in R&D no amount of govt. intervention can help them. Sorry to point out the facts.

    Cheers

  10. When the cup is full, you cannot pour anymore! What can I say!

  11. I beg to differ from Thinlay on many counts. A business man in business will not spend millions of money and wait to be spoon fed. There is too much at stake here to just sit and relax and wait for the government to bail you out. Business people do their share but government need to do thiers too. BCCI was formed by a bunch of business people thourgh their own initiative. They were formed to lobby for the business community and even to this day – government does not provide much importance for the mere fact that business people prefer to take their causes to teh government on thier own rather than BCCi since govt does not take them seriously.

    The Bhutanese business men does not lack the entrepreneurial spirit. They are in business due to the positive spirit. However, this spirit is often marred & killed by the government officials attitude towards private sector. I want to state here again that the policies for the private sector by the government is quite sound but it is the attitude of the officers against individuals. Business is conducted by who you know among the govt officials. it is sad.

    Business houses does not lack R&D. They do this when they begin business and do it often. However, government needs to put in effort and money into R&D for the sake of sound businesses. Instead – government officials have continuous unnecessary restrictions imposed to pvt sector. The list can go on but we know everyone is aware of this but no one is willing to look at this double edged sword. The GOVERNMENT IIS GREAT BUT IT IS THE ATTITUDE OF THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS THAT NEEDS TO BE OVERHAULED.

  12. Thinlay says:

    I may agree with BCCI about the attitude of some government officials but it should not be generalised. I think BCCI or any business person encountering bad government officials should take up the matter with concerned high authority. My point is that government policy for PVt sector development is positive. But there seems to be case for streamlining such policies and for this i would suggest cooperation from both the parties rather than pointing the fingers.

    Cheers

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