A new quarantine period for tourists has not yet been imposed

Phurpa Lhamo

The government has yet to decide when to impose the 5-day and 10-day quarantine period for vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists, respectively.

During a press briefing on March 14, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said despite people’s concern about the quarantine period affecting tourists entering Bhutan, arrival is expected to remain low due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Bhutan Tourism Board (TCB) has been holding virtual meetings with various stakeholders since March 11.

According to TCB officials, the meetings would discuss operational guidelines, changes to the sustainability tax or charge, standardization and classification of non-starred hotels, among others.

TCB Managing Director Dorji Dhradhul said TCB has been hoping to revive tourism since mid-2020. “We are hopeful to restart soon but, at the moment, we don’t know when that will happen. As we all know, it depends on so many factors, many of which are beyond our control.

Furthermore, he added that in the past two years, there was no period when TCB could have opened up significantly.

Internal issues, where hotels, airlines, tourist sites and communities were not ready due to the pandemic, and external factors were also reported as some of the barriers to opening up tourism during the pandemic .

However, current challenges are reconsidered moving forward.

Dorji Dhradhul said that with over 319,000 tourists by 2019, the country is beginning to be overrun with tourists. “Tourism, like hydroelectricity, forest and minerals, is a strategic and valuable asset of the country. Therefore, it belongs to all Bhutanese. It is therefore important that what we decide to do in tourism is good for at least the next 50 years.

He said when tourism reopens, tour operators, hotels, tour guides and others need to be very careful to maintain minimum service standards. “Let us be careful not to rush to welcome tourists and make the mistake of sending them away unhappy. This would have a serious impact on our brand, which would impact the future influx of tourists.

As of March 2020, around 3,000 tour operators, 4,000 tour guides, 500 hotels, totaling around 25,000 people, were affected by the pandemic. Those affected were beneficiaries of Druk Gyelpo’s relief kidu.

Lyonchhen said when the kidu ends, there will be no direct monetary support for those affected. But the government, he said, would support them with employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, licenses and loans from banks.

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