Safety of our tourists must reign supreme

The country saw the first tranche of tourists arrive at the Paro international airport after a wearisome lull of almost two years. The arrival of tourists not only means the resumption of business but is an important facet of our fight against the pandemic.

It is a defining moment of our progress – that we have come thus far and beat all odds – with the resurrection of this vital sector which has a resounding impact on our economy and affects thousands of lives.

The closure of international tourists in early 2021, had cost the national exchequer billions of ngultrums while thousands working in the sector were affected. Towns like Paro and Bumthang, where the majority of shops are focused on selling tourism products, were literally sent to their knees as they switched to restaurants, garments, and other businesses for survival.

Therefore, the reopening of tourism comes as a much-sought relief for many including the thousands of tour operators and businesses. However, even as we celebrate this joyous occasion, we need to tread with utmost caution as the pandemic has not yet subsided in many parts of the globe.

The opposition party, in a recent press release, has stated the government to come up with a revised standard operation procedure whereby we will not be taken aback if there are any major loopholes in our operating system.

One primary focus and intent should be the protection of our guests while also ensuring that our communities are also not exposed to unnecessary risks. This would be difficult to achieve given that the disease is very much virulent in almost all parts of the country today. However, we can take immediate measures so that we do not leave things to chance.

Wearing masks should still be a priority while we can also provide the tourists with vaccines if they are unvaccinated or require a booster. The guides should also ensure that the tourists are not exposed to risks like visiting crowded restaurants and businesses while emergency medical kits and life-saving medicines should be made available for them at all times.

However, nothing will come to fruition if the tourists themselves do not exercise caution, and this is where our guides can play a vital role in spreading awareness and guiding them. We must remember that the majority of travelers coming to Bhutan are senior citizens who are also the most vulnerable to catching the virus.

Our efforts to curb the pandemic’s resultant aftermaths will come crashing like a house of cards if we fail to protect even a single tourist. Therefore, the government must be fully prepared if any medical situations were to arise. That is why an SOP for tourists should be the top priority at the moment.

We have faith, that a government that is led by a team of highly qualified doctors has certainly delved into these safety aspects. We are treading through uncertain times and this moment to reopen our country to tourists should not come to haunt us later.

We must act in the most plausible manner and the safety of our tourists must reign supreme at all times.