Govt allows Dollar Account for Tour Operators

The government has decided to allow the tour operators to open their dollar accounts in the country, Chairman of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, announced during a meeting with more than 100 tour operators yesterday.

Tour operators were informed that in order to make it easier to compete with international agents, the government decided to let the tour operators hold dollar accounts.

According to Lyonpo, the benefit of holding a tour operator license is the liberty that an individual will have to create a dollar account.

“I’m not sure if hotels and other businesses will have access to the same facilities. We will now talk with Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) and look at the guidelines and policies for opening a dollar account,” Lyonpo stated.

The Chairman of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Sonam Tobgay Dorji, said that they brought it up many times to TCB, during the previous government’s tenure, for the simple reason that Bhutanese tour operators have a huge disadvantage when it comes to foreign tour operators, whether they are based in Kathmandu, Delhi, or anywhere else, because they can send their tourists to other countries while Bhutanese tour operators cannot.

“We have frequently informed the government that Bhutanese are not a global citizens. We must be the only country in the world that is prohibited from operating foreign currency, which has a significant negative impact on us, especially in the tourism industry,” he said.

He stated that he is certain that RMA would see the light, and eventually agree that Bhutanese citizens should be allowed to use foreign currency, like any other citizens throughout the world.

Allowing Tour Operators to have dollar accounts will help them in two ways. The first is that they can start to sell tour packages to not only Bhutan but also the India-Nepal-Bhutan-Bangkok or other circuits. This will enable higher income.

The other advantage is that it will empower Bhutanese tour operators to reduce or eliminate the Nepalese and Indian middle men tour operators whose main advantage over Bhutanese tour operators is a dollar account.

A Bhutanese tour operator can sell an entire circuit package for multiple countries and then send dollars to operators in other countries after keeping their charges.

Meanwhile, ABTO Chairman stated that the government has not used or mobilized tour operators to help the economy.

“We are now hearing that there is a foreign reserve shortfall. Tourism is one business that can boost the country’s economy. What bothers us is not the change or the Act, but the concept that individuals who have spent their whole lives in this field aren’t regarded as experts,” the ABTO President explained.

“At the very least, the council (TCB) should have the decency to consult with stakeholders who have spent their whole lives in the sector. Without tour operators, there will be no accountability, and on 23rd September, tourism will open, and on 24th, people will be in trouble because I don’t understand how the tourist will choose their guide because there are 4,000 guides in the country, and how the hotels will pass on the responsibility or booking of the tourist to other hotels because the hotels will only care about themselves,” he said.

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