With the annual pilgrimage season around the corner the government yesterday launched the Package Pilgrimage Regulation 2017 that will apply to all Bhutanese licensed outbound tour operators who render pilgrimage service outside Bhutan.
“The number of Bhutanese leaving on pilgrimage outside Bhutan, especially India and Nepal, is increasing every year. In the past, while availing services from the tour operators, in the absence of a legitimate regulation, the pilgrims faced challenges relating to unfair commercial practices and payments and there were also cases of accidents,” said the economic affairs minister, Lekey Dorji.
The Bhutanese had done an investigative story on the issue exposing the mistreatment of such mostly elderly passengers.
“The ministry, recognizing the need to address these challenges, has formulated the Package Pilgrimage Regulation in consonance with the power conferred under section 120 of the Consumer protection Act of Bhutan 2012.”
The legal officer of the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), Chencho Zangmo, said the regulation applies to Bhutanese licensed outbound tour operators who render pilgrimage service outside Bhutan for more than 24 hours or if overnight accommodation is provided as part of the package, and if the pilgrim has signed a Package Pilgrimage Agreement with the operator.
The regulation prescribes minimum standards, procedures and responsibilities of pilgrimage operators, pilgrims and relevant implementing agencies and comes into effect from 24th November 2017. The regulation was drafted in consultation with the relevant stakeholders and the consumer board.
The Market Price Information (MPI) for the fourth quarter of 2017 was also launched by the minister. “MPI is information on prices of essential commodities. It will be published periodically by OCP mainly to enable consumers in making informed choices,” an OCP official said. “It contains the prices of 128 essential commodities of selected shops in six regional towns of Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Trongsa and Mongar.
“The Bhutanese consumer should also grab the benefits provided by Goods and Service Tax (GST) launched in India,” the minister said.