Home / Economy / ‘Bhutan tourism to hit 2019 levels in 3 yrs’

NEW DELHI : Bhutan, closed to outsiders for the better part of 2022, will offer incentives to visitors to try and boost the tepid inflow since the Himalayan kingdom reopened its doors to tourists in September, a top official said.

The initiative is to jumpstart tourism without competing with Thailand or Nepal.

After two-and-a-half years of a covid-induced shutdown, Bhutan saw about 25,000 tourists, including 10,000 from India, in the last six months.

“We expect about 100,000 travellers in 2023, of which the bulk is from India. We should be able to come back to 2019-2020 levels by 2025," Dorji Dhradhul, director-general of Bhutan’s Department of Tourism said in an interview.

Other visitors mostly were from the US, the UK, Vietnam and Singapore, he added. Since the pandemic, Bhutan has also imposed a daily sustainable development fee for international tourists. Indians now have to pay 1,200 per day per person to visit, unlike before when it was free. Other foreign travellers are required to pay a heftier fee of $200 a person daily, up from $65.

As per the government’s calculations, it will take nearly three years for tourism to recover to pre-pandemic levels of 300,000 a year.

Until 2019-20, tourism contributed about 5% to Bhutan’s gross domestic product (GDP), and in foreign exchange, it was the number one earner after hydel power. “In a way, we started from ground zero last year...In 2019, we received 315,000 tourists, on the back of 50 years of tourism," he said.

Given the prolonged shutdown Dhradhul sees 25,000 arrivals as a “big number".

However, Bhutan is dealing with limited access in terms of international flights and mainly operates its own airline. “The readiness of the industry may take some time to come back to full capacity since for a good part of those 2.5 years, tourism was shut and domestic travel was also limited," Dhradhul said.

Varuni Khosla
Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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