CAB President says infrastructure are arteries of the tourism industry

The importance of the Tourism Levy (Amendment) Bill 2022, is manifested by the fact that it has currently become the issue discussed and deliberated at various levels of the Bhutanese hierarchy. While there are a number of proponents of the policy, there are also those opposing it. Nonetheless, there are also organizations and agencies, such as the Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), saying Bhutan needs to be “the high-end destination,” and that CAB has a very important role to play in this. 
“Infrastructure is very important and when we are talking about infrastructure, we are talking about roads, airports, hotels, rest rooms and others from the construction point of view. While contractors have been and are important, the economic transformation, such as the tourism policy reform has augmented the roles that contractors in Bhutan have to play,” CAB’s newly elected President, Trashi Wangyel said.
According to the new President, CAB has roles to play in two very important areas of tourism; demand drivers and supporting visitor infrastructure. “As you may be aware, demand drivers are must see icons of a country, which create and encourage visitation to a destination. This can extend the length of stay and increase visitor expenditure and are vital to ensure tourist dispersal to regional areas, thereby spreading the economic benefits of tourism to communities outside urban areas,” he said. 
As an example, he cited the Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashiyangtse. “It has about 100 species of mammals, including globally endangered ones, like the Himalayan Black Bear. Black necked cranes roost there. Culturally, Rigsum Goenpa and Singye Dzong are located within the sanctuary. It is a demand driver. If the area is to be developed, contractors will be involved and it becomes the responsibility of contractors to ensure that roads towards the park, guest houses and other infrastructure are of international standard,” he said. 
“I must admit that contractors in Bhutan are criticized for the lack of quality work. But these are mainly due to lack of coordination between the procuring agency and the contractors. We have already made these submissions to the government and at this juncture; when our country is opening a new chapter in tourism, I am confident that all contractors of the country will give their best,” he said. 
Additionally, he said that other tourism Infrastructure—including airports and hotels play a vital role in travel and tourism competitiveness. “I ardently belief that we can do it. Even if one contractor cannot due to shortage of time and other factors, we can always join hands and complete the task,” he said. 
Trashi added that while CAB has not yet been notified about the roles the association needs to play, “CAB is ready.” “We may not be a government agency, but we are all Bhutanese. I am definite that all contractors will give their unconditional support to work efficiently, keeping in mind the need for quality in times like this,” he said. “We have a board meeting soon and something we can do is the construction of toilets along the highways. I will throw this idea to contractors, saying that those whose works are along the highways could build state of the art toilets without charging anything. This is the least we can do for the country. However, those responsible for the tourism industry will need to ensure that these are maintained well, ” he said.  
Speaking along the lines of the President, newly elected board member, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that though Bhutanese contractors are blamed for poor quality work, it is a combination of several factors. “Contractors alone cannot be blamed. However, in this new transformation policy I feel that CAB should be involved from now itself. We can understand the needs, our limitations and accordingly prepare,” he said, adding it is important to understand the different types of tourism infrastructure that are being planned.
He further added that with this new policy, there should be changes in the way infrastructure development is done currently. “For instance, the quality of national highways as defined and required as per existing rules should change. It should be much more superior in quality, size and it is here that the government, CAB and other related agencies need to come together and talk,” he said, adding the sooner it is done, it is better. He added that governments till now may have just considered tourism as a secondary user when planning investment in nationally significant infrastructure. “Tourism should now be considered a primary user of any kind of infrastructure,” he added. 
Another contractor said that the moment people talk about contractors, people think “we are corrupt money makers.” “It is definitely wrong. Yes! Everyone should make a living and there will definitely be some rotten apples in a bag. But, even during the pandemic, we have served the country in different capacities. We stay for months away from families supervising our works. I cannot speak for other contractors, but I am ready to give my best and I think others will do the same,” he said.