The Dewathang-Gomdar MP, Ugyen Dorji moved the house to motion for the need to institute special and targeted measures to promote tourism for balanced regional development. He said that tourism is considered as important sector worldwide where it brought great development. He pointed out that globally tourism contributed US$ 7.6 trillion to the global economy which tantamount 10.2 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which generated 292 million jobs.
MP Ugyen Dorji presented the record of tourists visited Bhutan in 2017 where 62,272 were international tourists and 183,287 were regional tourists out of 254,704. The revenue contributed was US$ 79,807,169.
MP Ugyen Dorji pointed out only few dzongkhags are benefited from tourism. In view with revenue and employment generation, the MP moved the house to adopt;
- Open entry and exit point from Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nganglam and Panbang.
- Open direct flights between Guwahati to Yongphula, Bumthang and Gelephu.
Presently regional tourists are allowed to enter only from Phuentsholing. The Members of the Parliament came to the consensus to introduce the entry and exit points in Indo- Bhutan borders ensuring the security concerns by incorporating conditions that regional tourists should use Bhutanese vehicles and guides to move around.
Draagteng-Langthil MP Gyem Dorji shared his opinion, “All know the importance of tourism and support the motion but the country should build infrastructure and have proper management of waste disposal.” However, he did not support on flight from Guwahati as it should be discussed with airline service providers and there could be inconvenience to operate.
Wamrong MP Karma Thinley said, “Proper study of airport feasibility should be done and there should be strong policy on entry/exit for regional tourists.”
On the same note, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering suggested for instituting strong policy and introducing the entry/exit and flight service step by step.
Gangzur-Minjey MP Kinga Penjor said, “The other solution to reduce Indian vehicles is to introduce flight service from Guwahati while entry/exit point from border should be kept with condition to use Bhutanese vehicle.”
Nganglam MP Choida Jamtsho said, “The report of tourism shows that Pemagatshel has nil and will it be kept nil only. People have already constructed hotels for the tourists in eastern sides but there is no tourist where it became debacle for people to pay loan.” He suggested for introducing flight service and entry/exit from other borders too besides only from Phuentsholing.
Bongo-Chapchha MP, Tshewang Lhamo suggested to focus more on international tourists which brings more profit from taxes rather than on regional tourists who leave more waste. She also suggested to develop products to attract tourists and make four season destination.
Dramedtse-Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi said that he does not see any infeasible of airports where only a permission is needed from Government and find no risk on entry/exit but to open convenience of time.
The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said, “To promote tourism and open entry/exit form border are pledges of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and will fulfill it with new tourism policy and new members in Tourism Council.” However, he said that to introduce flight service may need time to study more and government cannot make agreement of scheduled flight, if it should be just to grant permission can be done.
Meanwhile, Khengkhar- Weringla MP, Rinzin Jamtsho defended that there is no need of change in tourism policy ‘High value, Low volume’ which is excellent. He said that it is the government’s responsibility to build infrastructure. In line with the view of MP Rinzin Jamtsho, MP of Phuentshogpelri, Ganesh Ghimiray shared his view that with nearest Bagdoara Airport and coming up Pakyong Airport in Sikkim, Bhutan can reap more benefit.
Opposition Leader (OL), Dr. Pema Gyamtsho and MP Ugyen Dorji clarified that opposition is not asking to move for scheduled flight rather just for introducing. OL attacked for differentiating international and regional tourists. He said, “Even regional tourists have money.”
The minister of Information and communication, Karma Donnen Wangdi said that introducing flight service should be in accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
The house passed the motion to open direct flight between Guwahati to Yongphula, Bumthang and Gelephu with 40 Yes and 3 No out of 43. The government will carry out consultation with relevant stakeholders.
The house also passed out the motion for entry/exit from border towns with 40 Yes,
2 No and 1 Abstain while to consider the point through Lhamoizingkha and Jomotshangkha too.
By Sangay Rabten