According to the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), flights from Kathmandu, Delhi, Bangkok, and Calcutta, brought in a total of 120 foreigners at Paro International Airport yesterday but not all were tourists.
There were 89 tourists among them with the other 30 coming via Phuentsholing meaning 119 tourists in total.
VIPs, dignitaries, and hosts from the Bhutan Tourism Council greeted every visitor who arrived at Paro Airport. Warm hospitality from Bhutan was extended to the visitors, who also received gifts, music, dancing, and refreshments.
Of the 119 tourists 28 of them entered paying the new Sustainable Development Fee rate of USD 200 per day. 26 of them came in via air while two of them entered from Phuentsholing.
Of the 26 around 12 flew in from Kathmandu showing the importance of the Himalayan circuit that includes Nepal and Bhutan. Then 8 flew in from Bangkok and 6 flew in from Delhi which is also a part of the larger South Asia circuit.
The maximum tourists in this group was brought in by a tour company called Luxury Division with 9 tourists.
The majority of the tourists were 48 tourists paying the old SDF rate of USD 65 of which three came via Phuentsholing and the rest 45 landed in Paro Airport flying in from Delhi, Kathmandu and Bangkok.
There were then 43 Indian tourists who came in paying the SDF rate of INR 1,200 per day per person.
Of the 43 around 25 came in via Phuentsholing while the 18 flew in from Delhi or Kolkata.
No tourists came in from Samtse, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar though there were many day visitors who went back.
While tourism was officially opened in Bhutan on 23 September there were already tourists entering the country earlier.
As of 22 September 73 tourists paying the USD 200 SDF were already in the country. Of them 55 left the country and 18 are still in the country.
There are another 382 such tourists who have been approved by TCB to come in.
Again as of 22 September 335 tourists paying the old SDF of USD 65 entered the country.
When it comes to Indian tourists paying the SDF as of 22nd September there were 112 who entered the country and of which 103 left and 9 are still in the country.
Another 152 have been approved to come in.
The reopening of tourism will test Bhutan’s new tourism policy of high value and low volume and the new SDF rate of USD 200 and INR 1,200 for Indian tourists.
Globally tourism is down given the impacts of the pandemic, the Ukraine war and a looming recession.
Director General of Tourism Council of Bhutan, Dorji Dhradhul said that Bhutan opens its doors to the world and it’s such a pleasure and honour to welcome guests back to our beautiful country.
“Days like this reflect the pure joy of working in tourism, of loving travel, and of believing that life is more enriched with travel,” he said.
During the welcome ceremonies at the airport, Bhutan’s new brand, “Believe,” which was revealed during an event on Thursday was prominently displayed.
In addition to articulating the kingdom’s promise and intentions for its youthful population, “Brand Bhutan” attempts to portray the optimism and renewed ambition of the country as it once again opens its doors to visitors.
This steadfast eye on the future is reflected in Bhutan’s new tagline, “Believe,” as well as the transformative journeys that its visitors go on.
Bhutan has carried out a major rebranding of tourism exercise replacing the old logo of ‘Bhutan – Where happiness is a place,’ with a new one called ‘Bhutan Believe.’
The new logo calls on people to believe in the Bhutan story and take part in a unique experience through the visit and also how the USD 200 SDF would be used to preserve this way of life and for various beneficial programs.
The branding team visited places from Radhi in the East to Lunana in the north and also talked to frequent travelers while coming up with the rebranding exercise.
The brand images draw upon contemporary Bhutan, the youth, tradition, nature and cultural motifs and the complexity of what is on offer in Bhutan beyond GNH and happiness.
This is just the start of the campaign and it will be using the international media and social media for a targeted approach.