The first quarter of 2023 saw 15,354 tourist arrival in the country.
In January 2023, there were a total of 2,670 tourist arrival the country out of which 721 were from countries other than India and 1,949 from India. Of the 721 tourists from other than India 253 paid the previous rate and 468 of them who paid the new sustainable development fee (SDF).
A total of 2,641 tourist arrived in February, out of which 759 were from countries other than India and 1,882 tourists were from India. Out of the 759 tourists from other countries than India, 185 paid the old rate and 574 paid the new SDF.
In March, a total of 7,385 tourists arrived in the country.
As of 5 April 2023, the tourist arrival count is at 2,658 tourist and counting for the month.
There has been a total number of 36,251 tourist arrival in the country from 23 September 2022 to 5 April 2023.
In accordance with the new tourism policy, 6,990 of the 14,999 international tourists that arrived paid the SDF of USD 200. And 8,009 tourists paid the old rate.
“Since the bookings and their documentation were completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists were allowed to visit Bhutan under older SDF,” said one general manager from a tour operator who had bookings made prior to the pandemic.
A total of 21,252 Indian tourists arrived to the country since the reopening of tourism sector in Bhutan, out of which 4,304 arrived on pre-permit and 16,948 permit on arrival.
On the first day of the official opening of tourism, the country welcomed 119 tourists.
Over the span of eight months, there has been a gradual increase in the number of tourist arrivals in the country. However, the number of tourists who arrived before the pandemic was higher.
341,292 tourists visited Bhutan pre-pandemic time from January 2019 to February 2020, out of which 77,488 were international tourists and 263,804 were regional tourists. SDF earnings were USD 23.42 million, with total tourism earnings of USD 88.63 million.
According to the latest data from the Department of Tourism, there has been a considerable decline in the number of tourists visiting Bhutan compared to previous years. Still, tour operators are hopeful that business will pick up soon.
A general manager of tour agency said he is hopeful that the new tourism policy will bring in results.
“We are trying to adapt to the new change in the tourism policy, and we are trying to gently educate our partners and our clients about the policy changes. There are few impacts, in terms of revenue generation decrease in the number of clients,” he said.
“However, we remain hopeful about the policy since our old tourism policy was two decades old,” he added.
He said that he is happy things now, as the business is getting a little better compared to previous months.
An official from the Department of Tourism clarified that there is no categorization of tourists into international and regional tourists, as there was before the pandemic. Regional tourists usually included nationalities from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. Every person other than these three was considered an international tourist. The visit was further segmented based on its purpose.
Previously, only international tourists had to pay the minimum daily package rate and a fee of USD 65. Due to bilateral relations, regional tourists were not required to obtain a visa. They basically required an entry permit.
With the new change, the only distinction is in terms of SDF. Today, there is no mandatory minimum daily package required for tour operators. The tourist has the choice to process documents by themselves or through a tour operator.
SDF for Indian national is Nu 1,200 per night per person.
Other nationalities from countries other than India must pay USD 200 per person per night. The SDF should be paid during the visa application process.
In order to promote our cultural diversity and Bhutanese talents, and to engage locals and foreign visitors, a first of its kind event, a mega music festival was held alongside the Paro Tshechu from 1-5 April. The carnival featured Bhutanese singers, local bands followed by local and international DJs.
The organizers of the Paro mega music festival, Wangyel and Tshewang, confirmed that the attendance exceeded their expectations for five days in a row.
According to Tshewang, locals from Samtse and guests from Kalimpong in Assam travelled great distances to see the performance and festival.
The Rhododendron Festival and Bhutan Echoes: Drukyul’s Literary Festival are two events that the Department of Tourism hopes would draw tourists from abroad.