The domestic tourism avenue in Bhutan, which has equal, if not more potential, compared to international tourism remained largely untapped for years according to the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
An official at the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) said people who traveled and toured within the country has definitely contributed towards the country’s economy.
Nonetheless he said that as of now there is no data recorded on domestic tourism so no specific income generations can be predicted.
The media officer at the TCB Damcho Rinzin said, “Domestic tourism’s impact on the economy is less than the international tourism however the domestic tourists might be spending more than international tourists”.
According to the TCB, 65% of income generated from an international tourist goes to the government while the rest is taken by the tour operators.
Therefore in terms of contributions towards the community the domestic tourism definitely has had impacts.. A TCB official Phuntsho Gyeltshen said “looking at the definition of a tourist and a traveler, even officials going on tours or people traveling to different areas to meet relatives comes under tourism”.
Bhutanese people in this sense has contributed to domestic tourism with merging cultures and traditions within regions or dzongkhags.
These instances however are not reflected in any data or reports of the TCB, but officials say they are in the process to compile data on domestic tourism. It is yet to adopt the methodology developed by the UNWTO to measure the contributions and impacts of tourism on a nation’s economy.
The TCB plans to look at the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) which shows how to measure domestic tourism and interpret data.
“We can’t go and start to collect domestic tourism data, we should have a standard process as per TSA requirements and look at the feasibilities,” he said.
Only a few TSA guide lines which are compatible to the Bhutanese context can be adopted by the TCB. The TSA method is expensive as it is like collecting census data. Nevertheless TCB expects the National Statistics bureau (NSB) to take the lead to introduce this methodology in the country.
Last year’s annual record showed only international and regional tourism data which showed a drastic increase in number of tourists.
What was not specified is that the contribution to national revenue by tourists from countries like India, Bangladesh and Maldives were categorized as regional tourists (exempted from paying tariff due to bilateral relations).
The TCB reports show an astounding 53,223 regional tourists who visited Bhutan last year.