Sunday, November 19, 2017

The pros and cons of royalty waiver for tourists visiting Eastern Dzongkhags.

The exchanges of views between the  Opposition and the Government in the National Assembly on this royalty waiver Money Bill is respectfully healthy debate and of worthy substance. One hopes that the Financial Committee of the National Assembly would come up with a overall beneficial tourism promotion oriernted Money Bill.

I also hope Zhemgang Dzongkhag gets clubbed with the Eastern Dzongkhag as that Dzongkhag also needs close attention of the nation in all development spheres. From the heartland of Central Bhutan this Dzongkhag rolls down right to the Southern border with India. It is endowed with the widest valleys and perhaps has potential to be Bhutan's agriculture bowl.  It was at one time densely infested with Indian militant camps and insurgents. Bhutan has to bring Zhemgang to the central fold of development.

There is validity in the arguement that it could be lack of amenities and hostile travel route rather than restrictions of  tourist pockets that have hindered tourist visits to the East. However, there is no harm in providing an extra impetus by way of royalty waiver for a limitted number of years.

The government has proposed 3 years of royalty waiver. With my professional background and field experiences in the marketting of tour packages, 3 Years is rather tight and make not be as effective as one would hope. The real impact of royalty free policy would follow from the second year and at least another 2 additional years would be necessary to condition mind set of both foreign travel agents and potential tourists to think of Eastern Bhutan as attractive destination.

I am quite impressed with the proposal of the Opposition leader in regards to ensuring royalty free benefits only for the authentic Eastern Bhutan visitors. There is chance of manipulation. Afterall,  profit is the central objective of all commercial enterprises. And any loophole would adversely affect the success of promoting Eastern Bhutan as a tourist destination after the end of royalty free period.

There is one weakness in Bhutan's foreign
exchange earning system from tourism. The overall rate is fixed by the government including the royalty. However, in order to be competitive, Bhutanese tour operators are engaged in under cutting the tour prices. That means tourists are visiting Bhutan even at lesser rate than the officially set. The loss is primarily borne by the respective Bhutanese tour operators. However, the nation suffers by way of flow back of hard currency that actually should be staying in Bhutan. If some mechanism can be developed and enforced to prevent under table tour pricing, that would in the long run benefit the nation and the operators themselves.

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