MoEA to investigate and frame guidelines on pilgrim tours

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) will be investigating and taking action in response to a story done by The Bhutanese in its last issue on the death of a pilgrim and inconvenience to others in a pilgrimage tour organized from Bhutan. The story had also highlighted the mushrooming number of such companies and their lack of accountability.

MoEA Minister Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said that he has asked the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) to see what the government can do to intervene and to come up with guidelines.

Lyonpo said that given that these incidents happen outside Bhutan they would want to see how they can get guidelines in terms of transport, stay,  guides, food etc.

The ministry has invited views and participation from other agencies like Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tourism Council of Bhutan, Road Safety and Transport Authority and Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

Meanwhile the OCP has already started an investigation into the issue.

Lyonpo also highlighted another case where a couple from Lunana paid Nu 70,000 for food and lodge in Bodh Gaya and Nu 24,000 for transport but later found the hotel was in Gaya which is a separate city far away from Bodh Gaya.   He said there was an investigation and so the tour organizer Bhutan Travel Express is refunding the couple Nu 65,000.

The PM said that he met some of the operators and currently there are around 22 that he knows of. The PM also said that so far 3,212 Bhutanese have gone for pilgrimage. The PM said that he was deeply grateful to the operators for taking farmers and people from relatively poorer backgrounds at a shoestring budget of Nu 15,000 for 10 days to so many places. He said he admired their entrepreneurship, without which farmers would not be able to go for such tours.

Lyonchhen said, however, he was personally concerned that with such fine margins they are cutting corners, buses are getting overloaded or are not of the best quality, there are not enough drivers and poor villagers are not getting enough food. The PM said the government would look into the issue.

He said that one would have to be mindful that solutions requiring minimum standards would mean more costs.

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