On the first day of the official opening of tourism, the country welcomed 119 tourists. Until yesterday, the country has received a total of 737 tourists.
As per Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), a total of 183 tourists who arrived in the country are paying the full USD 200 Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), with 384 guests paying the old SDF of USD 65, and 170 guests paying the SDF of Nu 1,200.
According to the Chairman of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB), Sonam Maekay Penjor, this is welcome news for the industry, since for more than two and a half years, there were no business and thousands of jobs dependent on tourism were lost in the country.
“The fact that we have now officially opened, and with the new tagline ‘Believe,’ we surely believe in a brighter, stronger, wealthier, and more inclusive Bhutan for both tourists and locals alike,” he said.
He stated that tourism is one of the largest employers of people. Unfortunately, more than 50,000 people were laid off during the pandemic.
“We are very hopeful that at least now that Bhutan is open, we are ready to receive guests, and we are slowly receiving guests every day. This would substantially benefit the economy since we are heavily reliant on tourism. Although hydropower contributes most to the economy, but in terms of jobs, the tourism sector is the number one employer of people globally, including in Bhutan,” he stated.
As per the Chairman, the hotels and restaurants in the country are very happy, positive, and looking forward to all of the transformation that are taking place in the country.
He explained that Bhutan will always attract visitors, especially those that value our culture, our people, our environment, and who believe in Bhutan.
“So although people may feel that the SDF is a bit high, it is also in line with the policy of high value, low volume, and also in preserving a rich culture and heritage,” he said.
He remarked, “On behalf of HRAB, we are also grateful to His Majesty The King for granting us Kidu, which has been dispersed to all sections of society and tourism, with hotels and restaurants being one of the recipients of Kidu, which has really helped our staff, employees who were unfortunately laid off during the pandemic, it has really helped them to have a dignified way of living during the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Sonam Dorji, said that the number of tourists is a trickle compared to pre-pandemic times.
He said that usually the country receives around 40,000 tourists in the fall season.
“It’s encouraging to see the little arrival that we are receiving, and we hope our offshore agents and well-wishers still promote Bhutan and our new Brand helps in elevating Bhutan image in our source market,” he said.
Tourism is globally down and yet to recover from the impact of the Pandemic with the Ukraine war making it worse with the latest problem being recession fears across the world.