Understanding the outrage

The strong national outrage over an Indian tourist standing on a Chorten in Dochula and a Bhutanese carpenter helping him is not just a reaction to a single incident.

This is in fact a national reaction to growing series of incidents of regional tourists desecrating our religious, cultural and natural sites.

The main problem at hand is the the growing and visible impact of mass and unregulated regional tourism in Bhutan.

In 2012 there were 50,722 regional tourists and 54,685 international tariff paying tourists

But in 2018 there were 202,290 regional tourists and only 71,807 tariff tourists.

The Dochula incident may very well be a watershed incident in terms of how authorities attempt to regulate regional tourists.

So far the TCB since 2017 has come up with many proposals and ideas to regulate regional tourism.

But both the former and current governments have not had the political will to push through the regulations due to two factors.

The first is domestic in terms of a strong regional tourism lobby that includes hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Politicians fear the impact in terms of the votes of this section which is getting larger and more dependent on regional tourism by the day.

The second and bigger factor has been an excessive fear and apprehension of what the Indian government or other official counterparts across the border may say or do.

Bhutan is not imposing a ban on Indians or other regional tourists from coming to Bhutan, but it is simply trying to regulate them based on our limited carrying capacity and is also for their own safety, good experience and well being.

The GoI must also realize that more incidents like this will impact people to people ties in a negative way and so it must be partner (and not barrier) with the RGoB in tackling this issue.

“Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin.” 
Bruce Chatwin

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