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Govt. to develop tourismpolicy to address rampantundercutting.

The government plans to develop a newtourism policy to address multiple issuesconfronting the tourism industry includingrampant practice of undercutting in the tourism industry.Talking to the media at the Meet-the Press yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. LotayTshering said that the issue of undercutting,which most tour operators currentlypractice, would be addressed once thetourism policy is in place.Tour operators attendingthe recently concludednational tourism conferenceraised the issue ofundercutting in the industryand how this affects thebusiness of small players inthe market.Tourists visiting Bhutanpay a minimum package ofUS$ 200 per person duringlean season and US$ 250during the peak season.However, some of the touroperators allegedly underselltour packages for as low asUS$170 per person.Lyonchhen said thateveryone is aware of theissue of undercutting in thetourism industry and howit is done.

'Once the policyis in place, the issue will beaddressed,' said Lyonchhen.The Foreign AffairsMinister, Dr. Tandi Dorji,who is also the Chairman ofTourism Council of Bhutan(TCB), said that the practiceof undercutting issue goesway back when the industrystarted in1970s.Lyonpo Dr. TandiDorji also said that duringthe first council meetingheld on February 25, theydiscussed the issue andhow undercutting can beaddressed and removed.He said thegovernment would takerecommendations from theAssociation of BhutaneseTour Operators as well asfrom Bhutan Chamber forCommerce and Industry withspecial emphasis on tourismindustry.'We have the answersand I would like to assurethat we have an effectiveplan under a very effectiveDirector General,' saidLyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji.'The payment system willmake online and it will betransparent.'Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorjialso said that TCB wouldconduct a study involvingmulti-sector stakeholders todevelop ways to address theissue of undercutting.The Director General(DG) of TCB, DorjiDhradhul, said that there isno written policy on tourismas of now.

'Once the policyis ready, everything will bein place. We will review thepayment system to make itmore transparent,' he said.He said that thepractice of undercuttinghas decreased compared tobefore.

'Only about 20% ofthe tour operators maybeengaging in undercutting,'he said.The Director Generalsaid the daily minimumpackage of US$ 250 is in factcheap for tourists, whichinclude expenses for three star hotel accommodation,transport, food and tourguide.The Prime Minister alsosaid that tourism is a flagshipprogram in the 12th planand the government plansto make Bhutan a touristdestination year round.However, Lyonchhensaid that the flagshipprogram is yet to beapproved.Currently TCB is workingon the flagship program.'The new tourism policywill redefine high value,low impact policy.

The highvalue, low impact shouldnot only take the number oftourist arrival but also shouldbring in high revenue,'said Lyonchhen.

'We wouldprefer one tourist bringingNu 1,000 than 100 touristsbringing Nu 1,000.'

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Publication:Business Bhutan (Thimphu, Bhutan)
Date:Mar 2, 2019
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