Over the past eight months, Bhutan has received more than 52,000 tourists. This according to the Tourism Department is signifying a positive trend in the tourism industry’s resurgence. Among the international tourists, a significant number of them were those who paid the new Sustainable Development Fee or SDF rate, surpassing those who paid the old rate.
From over 52,000 tourists, more than 32,500 are Indian tourists who paid Nu 1,200 per night. Similarly, from over 19,000 international tourists, a little over half of them entered the country under the new SDF.
However, according to the Tourism Department, this data does not include the visitors who came for official purposes.
“In terms of the new SDF, we feel that it is now slowly picking up because when we started on September 23rd because of the enhanced SDF rate, our arrivals could be really impacted but now what we are seeing in the figures is that it’s picking up and as of today the total number of tourist paying the new SDF seems to be a little bit higher than the old SDF rate,” said Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of Department of Tourism.
The revision of the Sustainable Development Fee to 200 US dollars per person per night initially raised concerns among service providers. However, going by the current trend, the Tourism Department says the tourist arrivals are beyond the department’s forecast.
“As of today, we seriously believe that our tourism recovery is doing very well especially when compared to other countries in the region. For instance, the arrivals in April were about 45 per cent more than what we have forecasted. Similarly, if you take an overall comparison with other countries compared to 2019 figures, our arrivals in 2023 are just about 38 per cent lower than the 2019 figure whereas some of the countries in the region’s recovery rate is much lower than what we are doing.”
Similarly, the Guide Association of Bhutan has also observed a notable increase in the number of tourists visiting the country.
“As the Tourism Department has rightly said that the number of tourist arrival is more than the forecast that they had and the number of arrival of tourists especially from India has also shot up. We are having sometimes difficulty in allocating guides. This is a good trend,” said Garab Dorji, Chairperson of Guide Association of Bhutan.
The top ten tourist arrivals in Bhutan over the last eight months come from countries such as India, America, Malaysia, the UK, and Vietnam among others.
Notably, April witnessed a remarkable surge, with more than 13,700 tourist arrivals, which is about 87 per cent increase compared to March, which saw more than 7,000 arrivals.
The department projects the country to receive around 98,000 tourists this year and remains hopeful that this target will be achieved.