… since September 22, 2022 and earned around USD 20.5M SDF
The arrival of tourists to date has been close to its forecast of 95,000 tourists by the yearend, the Department of Tourism (DoT) said in a statement yesterday.
Director General of the Department of Tourism, Dorji Dhradhul, said: “While the past year has seen its share of challenges in tourism, we are moving in the right direction. Overall, our tourism arrival numbers are matching our forecast and we do expect to welcome around 95,000 visitors to Bhutan this calendar year.”
Between September 22, 2022 and September 21 this year, 83,599 tourists arrived, out of which 57,707 were Indian and 25,892 guests from other countries. Out of these guests, 10,644 guests have paid the old SDF rate, while 15,248 paid the new rate.
From January 01, 2023 to September 22, 2023, 62,702 guests visited Bhutan, out of which 46,554 were Indian guests. The 2023 numbers are in line with the Department of Tourism’s forecast of attracting 95,000 guests to Bhutan from January to December 2023.
According to the DoT’s press release, the visa fees and SDF revenue collected from non-Indian guests in the 12 months have been approximately USD 1,035,680, and USD 17,179,931 respectively, while Nu. 289,838,473 has been collected as SDF revenue from Indian guests. The 2023 SDF revenues are on track to surpass the USD 23.42M SDF revenues collected in 2019.
The top 10 nationalities visiting Bhutan in the last 12 months have been Indian, American, Malaysian, British, Singaporean, Vietnamese, Chinese, German, Australian, and French.
Dorji Dhradhul said that since our forecast was conservative, and the department is making a lot of policy interventions with the hope to increase the tourism arrival numbers as much as possible.
“Similar to our nation itself, our approach to our tourism policy stands out for its uniqueness. We acknowledge the necessity of embracing change and occasionally refining both our policies and strategies to better match prevailing market conditions,” he said.
However, he said that it’s important to not just look at the number of guests visiting Bhutan, but also look at the type of guests visiting Bhutan, in line with the country’s strategy of ‘high value, low volume’ tourism.
The press release stated that many of the guests visiting Bhutan now are spending more money on their overall experience, there have been many private jets landing in the country, and Bhutan is positioned as a high-end and high-value destination among global travellers and travel agents.
“The many new hotels and new players in the tourism industry are a positive sign that underscores the growing interest and potential for continued expansion in Bhutan’s tourism sector,” Dorji Dhradhul said.
Some of the key tourism initiatives achieved in the past 12 months include revision of the SDF, monument fees, and the requirements for budget hotels to cater to tourists. The DoT assessed 35 new hotels. The department also introduced new tourism experiences like high-end fly fishing and golden mahseer expeditions, new flora and fauna tours, and nature tours, especially focusing on birding.
Many European and American travel partners are saying that 2024 will be “the year of Asian travel” as guests look to travel beyond their comfort zones, and to places that have a focus on wellness and transformative travel, the press release stated.
In terms of what’s ahead, the department has plans to develop new tourism products, continue to focus on enhancing the guest experience in-country, introduce incentives for MICE tourism, support the distribution of regional tourism across Bhutan, and continue efforts to market and create awareness and desire for Bhutan globally.
Last week, Bhutan won the ‘Favourite Sustainable Destination’ award in the Reader’s Choice Category of the GlobalSpa Magazine awards in Mumbai, India.