Bhutan needs new tourism prod­ucts: SAARC CCI pres­i­dent

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Dechen Dolkar from Thim­phu

A ma­jor hur­dle in un­leash­ing the tourism po­ten­tial of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) bloc is lack of an in­te­grated trans­port and peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­nec­tiv­ity.

The Pres­i­dent of the SAARC Cham­ber for Com­merce and In­dus­try (SAARC CCI) pres­i­dent, Su­raj Vaidya raised the is­sue say­ing the re­gion’s poor con­nec­tiv­ity, either by road or air, is a bot­tle­neck to flow of in­tra-re­gional tourists across the re­gion and also re­stricts the move­ment of in­ter­na­tional tourists vis­it­ing

the re­gion.

Lack of trans­port routes and strict visa rule are other rea­sons lim­it­ing tourism in the SAARC re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the SAARC CCI pres­i­dent.

The pres­i­dent added that lack of in­te­grated con­nec­tiv­ity is not only re­strain­ing the eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion of the South Asian re­gion but also re­strict­ing the peo­ple of the re­gion from rev­el­ling in so­cio-cul­tural fes­tiv­i­ties to­gether.

“With re­gard to Bhutan, the coun­try needs to de­velop new prod­ucts. There is the is­sue of un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try and the govern­ment needs to look into how to em­ploy highly ed­u­cated youths in pro­duc­tive ar­eas,” he said.

He feels that SAARC can help by bring­ing new investments into Bhutan in the hos­pi­tal­ity, ed­u­ca­tion, tech­nol­ogy and agri­cul­ture sec­tors “in which the coun­try has tremen­dous ad­van­tages”.

“Bhutan has ad­van­tages in many ways and the big­gest ad­van­tage is in the area of en­ergy among the re­gion. Through the en­ergy sur­plus if Bhutan can bring up in­dus­tries which uses en­ergy as the main cost, it would be a win-win sit­u­a­tion for in­vestors.”

These were among some of the fun­da­men­tal is­sues the stake­hold­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­cussed dur­ing the three-day SAARC CCI ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing held in the Cap­i­tal from 23-25 July in­clud­ing means to im­prove the move­ment of peo­ple and mea­sures to help them ap­pre­ci­ate the her­itage and cul­ture of each coun­try.

“It is only through travel that we can have more con­fi­dence and trust in each other,” said the SAARC CCI Pres­i­dent adding that they can im­prove air ser­vices in the SAARC coun­tries’ cap­i­tals.

Mean­while, the Spokesper­son of Tourism Coun­cil of Bhutan, Dam­cho Rinzin, said that lack of a one-for-all mas­ter visa, not pro­vid­ing e-visa and te­dious visa pro­cesses limit tourism con­nec­tiv­ity in the re­gion.

“The way for­ward will be to form an in­for­mal work­ing com­mit­tee to take up the pro­pos­als and dis­cus­sion for­ward,” he said.

Re­gional min­is­ters will con­vene in De­cem­ber where the SAARC CCI will pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions to all the gov­ern­ments to make tourism a pri­or­ity in cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment, en­cour­age youth in­no­va­tion in tourism and more in­vest­ment in the sec­tor.

Costs of trad­ing within South Asia re­main high at 114% of the value of goods be­ing ex­ported, mak­ing trad­ing with neigh­bor­ing na­tions more ex­pen­sive or less com­pet­i­tive, com­pared to trad­ing with dis­tant part­ners. This dis­cour­ages the for­ma­tion of re­gional value chains de­spite the geo­graphic con­ti­gu­ity. Poorly de­vel­oped land trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture is a key rea­son be­hind high trade costs, which is fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated by strict visa regimes and non-ex­is­tence of air con­nec­tiv­ity within the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to the SAARC CCI pres­i­dent, in South Asia, pol­i­tics un­for­tu­nately is more im­por­tant than eco­nomic agenda.

“Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers must un­der­stand that un­less eco­nomic is­sues like poverty are tack­led, poverty will be never be erad­i­cated and if we do not erad­i­cate poverty, un­wanted el­e­ments such as ter­ror­ism will al­ways ex­ist.”

Dur­ing the work­shop, the SAARC youth eco­nomic fo­rum was also cre­ated. Fur­ther, a women’s sum­mit will be or­ga­nized ev­ery year to rec­og­nize women in the re­gion and their achieve­ments.

SAARC CCI has been striv­ing to pro­mote re­gional health, re­li­gious and busi­ness tourism in the SAARC re­gion. The re­gion com­prises one third of the world pop­u­la­tion. The next ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing will be held in Septem­ber at Colombo.

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