Mass tourism

Liberal guests

A recent entry, which was basically a reproduction of the opposition party’s Press Release on the Government’s tourism policies, generated a lot of comments. As of now there are 44 comments, the last of which belongs to “10000eyes” asking:

OL: do you read all the comments made by the blogger…or you just glance on it? just want to know…

Yes, I do read your comments. I read every one of them. And I benefit immensely from your comments, especially those that are critical of and challenge my views.

Obviously what’s more important is that other people – concerned citizens and decision makers – are also reading your comments. And benefiting from them.

But I suspect that what “10000eyes” really wants to know is why I did not post any comments, why I didn’t participate in the discussions. It was intentional. The discussions that “Press release” generated were good, so I preferred to sit back, be quiet and listen. But, be assured, I paid close attention to the discussions. And, I hoped that other readers were following your conversations as well. In fact, that’s why I’ve refrained from posting too many new entries since then.

My views haven’t changed: I still think that liberalizing the tourist tariff is a terrible idea; that requiring hotels catering to tourists to upgrade to at least a 3-star category is insane; and that unilaterally dictating how the entire proceeds of the TDF will be used is illegal.

All said, however, every one of us seems to agree on one thing: that we do not want mass tourism. Okay. But what is mass tourism? How would you define it? Nepal!

Of course, Nepal. And, yes, we do not want to go Nepal’s way, because mass tourism has ruined their country.

But answer this: how many tourists visit Nepal in a year? One million? Two? Three?

Wrong!

In 2008, Nepal had less than 550,000 tourists. And that was an all time record.  And, it included Indian tourists, some 100,000 of them. And, Nepal has about 30 million people.

Now, think about our own country. We have barely 600,000 people. And we seem to be targeting 100,000 tourists per year. And that does not include Indian visitors – they don’t need visas, they don’t pay the daily tourist levy (inappropriately called “royalty”), and they could arrive in much larger numbers.

I don’t know about Nepal. But for Bhutan, liberalizing tourist tariffs and aiming for 100,000 tourists per year amounts to inviting mass tourism. And that must not be acceptable.

 

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  1. Letho Drukpa says:

    On 5th Feb,2010 Prime Minister of Bhutan made an excellent speech on sustainable development in New Delhi infront of hundreds of leaders from around the world. He began with nice personal expressions of his past journey via drukair across the Himalayas and the current experience during his journey. It was superb beginning!
    But towards the end he made this comments!

    “Some of the results of having been guided by GNH in our development, to name a few, are:

    ■A constitutional requirement that our country must always have a minimum forest cover of 60%. Presently, our forest cover is more than 72% with 51% of our land falling under parks and protected nature reserves.
    ■A policy that values the forest for its ecological value above that of its commercial worth.
    ■A voluntary pledge that Bhutan will always remain carbon negative, meaning that its carbon sequestration capacity will exceed the amount of GHGs it releases.
    ■A tourism policy that emphasizes high quality, low impact (volume).
    ■Stringent environmental laws governing industrial licensing.”

    Now that 4th point he made about HIGH QUALITY LOW VOLUME tourism policy shocked me. Again he proved himself that he is not aware of latest policies that DPT MPS made recently on tourism and this time he lied to WHOLE WORLD!

    what do think guys? The full extract of his speech can be read on bhutanobserver.bt.

    Tashi Delek

  2. This Policy is not from DPT MPs. The Executive Order was signed by the PM himself.

  3. I still believe that we need to liberalise tourism in Bhutan, but there is a huge difference between liberalizing tariffs and mass tourism.
    As far as Indian tourists are concerned, I think, they never had to pay $200 a day to begin with, so there won’t be any difference there.
    I also think , Bhutan government can still control visa application issues and charge certain royalty per visa, rest let the tourist decide where they want to stay and how they want to spend their time. We don’t have to restrict where they stay and where they eat.

  4. Why do we always try to compare ourselves with the worst in the world? Are we that pessimistic in our outlook? Why look only at the impact of mass tourism in Nepal, where the government failed to implement the policy well and allowed not mass tourism but unplanned haphazard tourism which is the real cause of Nepal suffering from the unintended consequences of tourism. Why can’t we be a bit more optimistic and look at how planned mass tourism has benefited countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia etc.

  5. I agree, also Nepal is one of the most corrutped nation in teh world and has been dealing with Maosit rebel for decades.

    With a $2.2 billion per year tourism industry, Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.0 million foreign visitors in 2008,[33] which translates into a relatively high expenditure per tourist of $1,100 per trip, and a rate of foreign tourists per capita of 0.46, one of the highest in the Caribbean Basin. Most of the tourists come from the U.S. and Canada (46%), and Europe (16%).[34] In 2005, tourism contributed 8.1% of the country’s GNP and represented 13.3% of direct and indirect employment.[35] Tourism now earns more foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined.[27][36]

    Ecotourism with the many tourists visiting the extensive national parks and protected areas around the country. Costa Rica was a pioneer in this type of tourism, and the country is recognized as one of the few with real ecotourism.[37] In the 2009 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica ranked 42nd in the world and first among Latin American countries.[38] Just considering the sub-index natural resources, Costa Rica ranks 6th worldwide in terms of the natural resources pillar, but 89th in terms of its cultural resources.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Rica

  6. I join Letho Drukpa in picking on HE The Prime Minister yet again!

    He has talked about sustainability and seeking for stricter environmental policies and the need to work for that.
    Now look at this picture and see what you observe. http://www.bbs.com.bt/PM%20leaves%20for%20Delhi.html

    Why waste resources in the first place. Why allow 3-4 ministers and 4-5 secretaries to come and see him off in the Airport in Paro all the way from Thimphu. this is an utter waste of time and resources. All the Prado and Car fuels and time could be saved to prevent emission and wear and tear..
    Did we forget about sustainability until he got off the plane and started looking on the mountains?

  7. last sentence we=he

  8. 10000eyes says:

    OL, thanks for your reply,
    Dorji, executive order was written by Mckinsey Consultancy and signed by HONORABLE PM.
    Tsheeri,
    our government never fail to make policy; plastic ban, tobacco ban, zero tolerance to corruption etc and failed to implement. now for the first time,our government is failing to make good policy, forget of implementation, we have good track record of implementation failure.
    there is possibilities that failed policy will be executed successfully.
    this is to the people who have not said anything on liberalization of tourism (agree or disagree)-lets pray, watch and die.

  9. i think the previous policy should be re instated, provided that it is edited.

  10. Mass tourism in my view would look like tourism in Thailand, yearly 14 million tourist visit Thailand, not bad for a country who has population of 61 million (approx). can’t say its unhealthy, it contributes so much to their GDP.

    rest i agree to other comments, our PM goes to Brazil just to admit that Bhutan is Behind is implementing GNH. If the money Paid or supposed to be paid to Mckinsey is invested in Bhutan, that would have made more sense and indeed helped many peoples in the villages. let me stop here, dont wanna show my frustration.

    Sometimes, it makes me think that our policy makers sits on their head and use their ass, may be they think what ever they propose is great and perfectly genius!

  11. Quite fed up of this discussion now. I heard from reliable sources that the government is going ahead with liberalization anyway. The 24th Feb consultation meeting with the stake holders by the Pm and government is only going to be a formality fulfillment.

    DANGER AWAITS AND DANGER LOOMS. WE ARE DOOMED.

  12. We can be unique and extinct at the same time…With all those protectionist ideologies we can be endangered spicies on the planet…Seems we don’t see anything further than Nepal…Kuensel reports that 2009 have seen 15% reduction in the number of tourist arrivals from the previous year…We dont want to liberalize the sector yet we are concerned that enough tourists didnt visit…its all comfusing…I remember citing Costa Rica’s case earlier on…Truth has done it more convincingly and detailed here…I believe we have enough reasons to associate ourselves with a happy and well functioning country like costa rica than nepal when it comes to tourism and their approach in harnessing equally high potential resource from the sector…let the truth be with “thuth”

  13. …let the truth be with people like “truth”…

  14. Dear OL,
    It seems to me that everybody understands the the problem and the the truth is this decision is the very decision taken by the few heads in the DPT (who once were the protagonist of torism policies). I am really sick of it. Frankly I am frustrated, we talk a lot of being unique, prestine, GNH, tradition, high quality…., blah blah….now every thing seems to be coming to an end just because of one “suspicious” step. I am an ordinary citizen, If i have the wisdom to understand the grave situation, why not the elected, qualified and wise policy makers…….?? I am sick….

  15. Hi Tshering

    You are doing a great job and I thank you for it. It makes me proud to see that we can have such honest and articulate members of parliament in Bhutan.

    I’m glad you looked at the actual numbers of tourists in Nepal. Now look a little further: how many tourists visit France, the top tourist destination?

    I’ll give you the answer. With a population of 65 million, France gets about 80 million tourists annually. Also, with a population of 5 million, Singapore gets over 10 million visitors annually. Obviously neither Paris nor Singapore looks like a giant rubbish dump as Kathmandu.

    So – it is not the high number of tourists that makes Kathmandu look like a dump. It is something else (people who know Nepal might suggest: maladministration, corruption, resulting poverty, lack of proper sewage, building codes, urban planning, overall lack of a government that feels responsible for the future of the city… etc. etc.).

    So can I humbly plead with you not to focus on the single aspect of visitor numbers, as this is not in itself a problem? Look globally at visitor numbers as a function of Bhutan’s ability to receive them.

    If we can provide efficient transportation – wide roads up from Phuentsholing instead of the current Indian-made falling-rock disaster zone, if we can provide efficient policing so any visitor who causes trouble or breaks laws is quickly and silently dealt with and expelled, if we can provide good road cleaning, garbage removal, water treatment and sewage disposal so that the visitors do not have an adverse impact on our environment, and if we can properly control entries so that they are limited to the areas of our country with the capacity to implement all of this

    – then I humbly suggest that having more visitors could actually be good for the country, even if we get 1 million visitors annually.

    But if we do not address our infrastructure, and just try to hang on to this previously useful but now very outdated model of shipping tourists around like pricy cattle through our undeveloped hinterland

    – then we should forget about making more money from tourism and focus on some other sector.

  16. TOMORROW IS THE DAY FOR THE PM AND THE TCB COUNCIL MEMBERS MEET THE STAKE HOLDERS LIKE GUIDES, HOTELS AND TOUR OPERATORS. INITIATIVE FOR BETTER CHANGE IS WELCOME BUT LIBERALIZING TOURISM FOR MASS TOURISM IS A QUESTIONABLE PROCESS & THOUGHT. I WISH ALL TEH STAKE HOLDERS GOOD LUCK.

  17. Hon Prime Minister saw lot of sense and merit in the presentation by ABTO, guides and the hoteliers. Liberalization of Tariff is lifted and all other initiatives will go ahead as promised. This is indeed excellent news for all the stake holders.

    WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE OFF SEASON NOW. WILL THERE BE ENOUGH INITIATIVES TO BOOST THIS SEASONALITY ISSUE. WE WILL HAVE TO HAVE LOT OF FAITH IN THE TCB TO RESOLVE THIS FOR THE TOURISM INDUSTRY TO FILL THE HOTELS, EMPLOY GUIDES ETC.

    ANYWAY, IT WAS A FRUITFUL DAY AND A WIN-WIN SITUATION FOR ALL…. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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