Photo Credit: Department of Tourism, Bhutan

Around 63,964 visitors are expected to arrive in 2023: SOTN

According to State of the Nation (SOTN) report, around 137,000 visitors are expected to arrive in 2025, which is around 44 percent of visitors in 2019. However, the spending is estimated to rise with SDF revenues reaching pre-COVID-19 level by the end of 2023.

Similarly, from the 12,488 tourists in 2022 the prediction for 2023 is 63,964 total visitors with 22,220 from Countries Other Than India (COTI) and 41,744 visitors from India, for 2024 it is 107,590 total visitors with 38,016 from COTI and 69,574 from India.

In 2025 the predicted break up of the total 137,000 visitors is 56,078 from COTI and 81,733 from India.

The Director General of Department of Tourism, Dorji Dhradhul, said that the above forecasts are based on the fact that tourism could resume by September 2022. It also factors in assumptions like the expected drop in the number of tourists after implementing SDF USD 200, assumed at minus 75 percent for countries other than India (COTI) compared to 2019 arrival numbers. The forecast shows minus 57 percent (COTI) and minus 45 percent (India) of 2019 arrivals expected for 2024. Minus 35 percent international, and minus 29 percent regional and international others of 2019 arrivals expected for 2025

The introduction or implementation of the Tourism Levy Bill 2022 (effective from June 2022) will have an impact on leisure arrivals. For India, it is assumed that the arrivals will decline by 50 percent when compared to the normal projections.

Meanwhile, such a shift is seen on a global scale, UNWTO Tourism Barometer arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43 percent and 46 percent below 2019 levels respectively. Asia and the Pacific recorded 93 percent below 2019 as several destinations remained closed for non-essential travel.

International tourist arrivals are now expected to reach 55 percent  to 70 percent of 2019 levels in 2022, depending on several circumstances, including the rate at which destinations continue to lift travel restrictions, coronavirus, and global economic conditions, particularly inflation and energy prices.

The evolution of the war in Ukraine, possible new outbreaks of coronavirus, and global economic conditions, particularly inflation and energy prices have affected tourism business around the world.

The DG stated that the tourism experts expect the global tourism to reach at 2019 level by 2023, except for Asia and the Pacific (2024 or later) and Asia’s full recovery (pre-pandemic 2019 level) is expected in 2024 or later.

The report also points out the purpose of promoting Bhutan’s reopening and new tourism strategy. A complete media, travel agency, and event plan has been developed and implemented.

“A proactive outreach campaign has been developed to make the world’s most important media sources and premium travel agencies into tourist ambassadors for Bhutan,” the report stated.

The DG said that following the reopening of tourism to Bhutan, the Department of Tourism is managing an integrated sales and marketing strategy in key markets to promote Bhutan.

“The objectives are to raise awareness of Bhutan, and its unique features among travel agents and direct consumers, as well as to help drive visitors to Bhutan. This will include PR and media outreach among global publications, inviting top press and travel agents to visit the Kingdom, sales roadshows to meet travel agents in key markets, online webinars with press and travel agents for awareness and education purposes, digital marketing, a revamped social media strategy and attendance at important travel fairs (among other things), all of which are ongoing,” he said.

He added that Bhutan has picked up three prestigious international travel awards in the past two weeks, underscoring the country’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the overall tourism and guest experience in the country.

As per the report, in accordance with Bhutan’s goal of high-value, low-volume tourism, representatives from the Department of Tourism will attend specific tourism events each year in order to interact with travel agents, hold press conferences, meet suppliers, promote Bhutan as a travel destination, and aid in boosting visitor numbers.

Meanwhile, the validation of service providers is underway in phases to determine their readiness to accommodate tourists after the majority of them became non-operational during the pandemic, in accordance with the requirement that all visitors stay in Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) certified accommodations (three-star and above hotels and homestays).

The report stated that 139 three-star hotels and 83 homestays have been validated nationwide under Phases I and II.

Additionally, the skills, knowledge, and awareness of 1,091 guides were evaluated. So far, 837 different tour operators have been verified.

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