Tourism Department plans 300,000 annual visitor increase

Following the Prime Minister’s directive to enhance tourist arrival, the Department of Tourism is developing action plans to increase tourist arrivals to 300,000 annually. The department is also reviewing the feasibility of waiving the sustainable development fee for tourists visiting the border towns. It is one of the pledges of the government during the election campaigns.

The department has formed committees including a core committee and a subcommittee. The committees involve key stakeholders in the tourism sector.

As part of developing action plans to increase arrivals, the committee conducted a field visit to the bordering districts in the south recently, engaging in consultation meetings with the local stakeholders.

No details regarding the outcome of the discussions were revealed yet. The department says it will submit the action plan to the government on 1st March.

Meanwhile, a few guides and tourists BBS talked to expressed their suggestions on how the country can increase tourist arrivals.

“After the SDF was increased, the number of tourist arrivals decreased compared to the pre-pandemic situation.  I have worked as a guide for over 20 years but the number of tourists has decreased comparatively now. Our only expectation now is that the number of tourists will increase yearly,” said Chencho Nidup, a tour guide.

“It would be much better if the Bhutanese government could reduce the SDF back to how much it was four to five years back when I first visited Bhutan. Then it will attract more tourists in the next season,” said Mayra Lopez, a tourist from California.

“We have been a little surprised about the lack of tourism and the hotel we stayed in had very few tourists in it. It seems it is a direct result of the expensive tourist fee that is being charged,” said Debbie Sabag, also a tourist from California.

The tourists added that they have plans to revisit the country if the SDF is revised.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister DN Dhungyel said that the ministry is collecting action plans and recommendations from the Bhutanese embassies abroad on how to further improve tourist arrival.

In the directives to boost the tourism sector, the office of the Prime Minister also asked the Foreign and External Trade Ministry to issue orders to all the Bhutanese embassies abroad to submit ideas on how to promote Bhutan to tourists.

According to the chairperson of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators, one way to increase tourist arrival is by reapplying the children and duration discounts for tourists.

As part of a marketing strategy, the Department of Tourism, before the SDF revision, offered attractive tour packages to tourists. The tourists were given a 50 per cent discount on the SDF if their stay in the country exceeded nine nights and were offered a 100 per cent waiver if the duration exceeded 15 nights.

In addition, a 50 per cent discount was offered for tourists if they visited in a group of more than 10 people and a 100 per cent waiver for those visiting in groups with more than 15 individuals.

Meanwhile, around 89,000 tourists visited the country last year after the SDF revision and generated a revenue of around USD 22 M for the government.

In 2018, the country received more than 300,000 tourists which generated a revenue of over USD 26 M to the government from SDF.

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