The hotel industry seems optimistic about the future due to the rise in tourist numbers following the introduction of the USD 100 Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and reductions in SAARC airfare.
According to the Chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB), Jigme, “The occupancy outlook for the upcoming season appears promising. This optimism primarily stems from the revised SDF and a more open market, which has empowered stakeholders to actively promote both Bhutan and their own establishments. We hope the government will sustain the current framework of open competition, revise policies as necessary to facilitate easier access for visitors to Bhutan, and engage stakeholders in promoting Bhutan globally.”
Manisha Giri, the Manager of Hotel Bhutan Ga Me Ga in Phuntsholing, expressed, “During the off-season, our bookings are lower, and we haven’t yet felt the immediate impact of the halved SDF. It may take time for tour operators to adjust and advertise accordingly. We are optimistic about the upcoming spring season and appreciate the government’s decision to halve the SDF, recognizing that each government sets its own terms. The waiver of Nu 10 from the Pedestrian Terminal on the first day of the office was a helpful and welcome gesture. We anticipate further positive changes in the tourism sector.”
Tara Phendeyling Hotel in Thimphu shared, “We’re currently in the off-season, and bookings remain steady. While we have more conferences than usual, March shows full bookings, and we’re gradually seeing an increase in April and May. The new implementation of SDF appears to be positively impacting us, and we hold high expectations from the government. Overall, we’re content with the current situation and optimistic about the future.”
Chumey Nature Resort in Bumthang stated, “Our business has been slow for some time now, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the reduction in the SDF to USD 100, we haven’t noticed a significant change in our situation. We hope that the government will introduce policies that will support the hotel industry. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, we do have a few bookings and remain cautiously optimistic about it.”
The Village Lodge in Bumthang remarked, “Though it’s been a short time since we assumed ownership of the hotel, we’re pleased to report a decent number of bookings for the upcoming spring season. The implementation of the SDF USD 100 has had a positive impact on our operations. With the current number of bookings, we are optimistic that more will come our way.”
With hotel bookings increasing nationwide, many hoteliers are optimistic about seeing higher occupancy rates for the spring season and positive policy changes under the new government.
The Tourism Department said Bhutan saw 103,000 tourists in 2023 of which around 70% were from India. The total SDF collected in 2023 was USD 26 mn.
January arrivals in Bhutan are a total of 4,414 guests almost double the number of guests who arrived in January 2023 (2,670 arrivals). The top markets in January 2024 were from India, US, China, UK, Brazil, Australia and Germany.