Give Change a Chance, says President of Bhutan’s Hotel Association

Hotels are part and parcel of the tourism industry and when the government pushed for a reform and rise in the daily sustainable development fee (SDF), thee were sentiments expressed that the hoteliers would be affected. However, Sonam Wangchuk, President of the Hotels Association of Bhutan, say that though there may be some affected temporarily, the reform was long due and that everyone should be ready to give change a chance. 
When asked about the reforms, Sonam said that there is a feeling everywhere that it is about time for the reform. “We feel it is about time that the reform was much needed. Everyone in the tourism industry should benefit from it. We fully support the reforms made but are bit concerned. Nonetheless, there is no going back now and all of us need to plan and move ahead with the change,” he said. 
On feelings amongst hoteliers, he said that hoteliers accept the change and that the reform will benefit hoteliers from many angles. “We will get direct booking opportunities with clients, receive direct payments from clients and can also organize and arrange ground handling works,” he said. Nonetheless, Sonam expressed there are apprehensions that the number in tourists would drop. “But this is something we should be ready to face,” he said.  He further added that only time would determine if the number of tourists would decline or not. 
Concerning actions that the government and the Tourism Council of Bhutan should now do, Sonam said infrastructure is the most important one, followed by service delivery. “They should invest in quality infrastructure and improve the standards of hotels, apart from up-skilling guides and hotel staff,” he underlined.
Sonam further mentioned that the market should determine the kind of services that are required. He added that most have perceptions that tour operators are not required in the reform. “But one must remember that this will not be possible without the tour operators as they have been the main promoters of Brand Bhutan now. Thus, it is important that we keep them in the system too as an option for guests to chose,” he said. 
Meanwhile on June 28, 2022, The National Assembly deliberated on the recommendations received from the National Council (NC) on the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022. The Chairperson of the Economic and Finance Committee, Kinga Penjor presented the eleven recommendations made by the NC on the Bill along with the Committee’s decision to accept all the recommendations.
There was intense deliberation on the NC’s recommendation after which the House adopted all of the 11 recommendations on the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 with 38 Yes, 1 No and 1 Abstaining out of the 40 Members present and voting. The Bill will now be submitted to His Majesty the King for Royal Assent.