157 cancellations within just 20 days
Ever since the major earthquake in Nepal on 25th April 2015 around 20 days ago the Tourism Council of Bhutan has seen 157 cancellations from 31 tour companies almost all from the Kathmandu sector.
Given that the tariff is USD 250 per tourist and the average stay of a tourist in Bhutan is around 7 days, Bhutan would have lost around USD 274,740 or Nu 17.4 mn in just 20 days. The losses will pile up if the cancellation trend continues especially given that Bhutan’s peak tourist season is in March-April-May
TCB spokesperson Damcho Rinzin said the actual cancellations would be even higher as the figures with TCB were only for those who had paid their visa fee advance. He said there would be tourists who would not yet have paid the fee and instead have cancelled trips with their tour operators directly.
Tour operators agree with this assessment given the close and linked nature of tourism between Bhutan and Nepal.
Executive Director of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators Sonam Dorji said, “A lot of tourists that Bhutan receive are those who travel from great distances and so they like to combine their trips to Bhutan with other countries like Nepal. Therefore, Nepal being affected would also definitely affect tourists coming from that sector.”
He said that he had heard from several tour operators of cancellations due to the Nepal earthquakes.
As per the latest Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2013 of the 44,252 tariff paying tourists that visited Bhutan in 2013 around 30 percent or 13,182 tourists came through Kathmandu.
The report also found that of the tariff paying tourists coming to Bhutan around 29 percent had said that they had combined their visit to Bhutan along with a visit to Nepal. In the same survey only around 33 percent said that they flew all the way only to come to Bhutan. Another 24 percent had combined the trip with India while another 20 percent had mentioned the Thailand-Bhutan circuit.
Sonam Dorji said things were slowly getting back to normal when the second quake on 12th May 2015 made matters worse. He said given the mainly international media coverage of the quake and its effects foreign tourists were not keen to come to the Kathmandu-Bhutan sector.
Chodey of Norbu Bhutan Travels said that her company had seen around 15 to 20 cancellations from the Nepal sector. She said that the most hit category of tourists would be especially those coming from China as they found it convenient to use the Kathmandu-Bhutan circuit given the air connectivity with Kathmandu. She said her company dealt mainly with a mix of American and European tourists.
She said she heard from some hotels that there was a major drop in bookings by Chinese tourists. What is making matters worse is that those Chinese tourists willing to fly in from the Bangkok sector are not able to get adequate air tickets at the last moment.
She said that she could not say what would be the impact of the Nepal quake in the fall season of September-October-November.
Sonam Dorji also had the same assessment as he said that mainly Chinese and European tourists likes to use the Kathmandu-Bhutan circuit given connectivity advantages for them.
Director of Etho Metho Tours and Treks Sangay Wangchuk said that his company had seen around 10 cancellations due to the Nepal quake. However, since his company also dealt mainly with European and American tourists the cancellations was only around 10 percent of his business in May.
He said that there possibly could also be a positive effect in the fall season with visitors cancelling their Nepal packages and instead coming to Bhutan.
However, other tour operators are not as positive as they feel that any decline in Nepal’s tourism visitors would also affect Bhutan.
Sonam Dorji said that ABTO has been telling its members to speak with its various partners and assure them that Bhutan has not been affected by the quake in anyway and is completely safe.