According to the information provided by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), the provisional total tourist arrival, as of September 2019, was 208,457 with a growth of around 13 percent compared to 2018 for the same period.
Tourist numbers increased by 25,652 tourists till September 2019 compared to the same period in September 2018. Bhutan from January to September 2018 got 182,895 tourists and the figure increased in 2019 as Bhutan received 208,457 tourists.
Last year, out of total tourist arrival of 274,097 tourists, 202,290 were regional tourists and 71,807 were international tourists inclusive of leisure, official, business and others.
This is compared to 8 percent growth in 2018, 21 .5 percent in 2017, 35 percent in 2016, and 16 percent in 2015.
According to TCB, though there has been an absolute increase in the arrival, the percentage increase compared to last 6 to 7 years has actually declined.
During 2008, the number of regional and international tourists was almost equal but due to marketing and promotion, people in the region knew about Bhutan and how cheap it is to visit Bhutan. It became very convenient and easy for them to visit Bhutan.
During those days, since there was no clear tourism policy, people could come and leave through a permit system, but as the number grew drastically ,the need to have a clear tourism policy was felt, and once the one tourism policy for all is implemented then thing are expected to come in place.
An official from TCB said that the feedback from hotels particularly from the budget hotels, it is apparent there are lots of hotels coming up every now and then, apartments are also being converted into hotels.
He said that the increase in the number of hotels in the recent years is not only because of tourist arrivals, but a combination of many factors. Increase in arrivals has, in fact, helped the budget hotels since it accommodates a lot of regional tourists which is why there has been a drastic increase in the budget hotels.
He said, “If we go by government policy of high value and low volume tourism, and examine the present situation, we are contradicting ourselves because, at present, we are having high volume of tourist and not the high value tourists. We actually have to target the high end market.”
In order to make the hoteliers happy by bringing in as many tourists as possible, in the long run we are putting ourselves into big trouble, he added.
Brand Bhutan is the reason why more number of tourists from different countries are willing to visit Bhutan, but the moment we divert towards mass tourism, there won’t be much international tourists visiting Bhutan, he pointed out.
There is a huge number of tourists coming in, especially in October and November, when there are lots of festivals, but due to the limited capacity, like limited air tickets and limited accommodation, it is not possible to house all those who are willing to visit Bhutan. “But if it is spread across seasons, we can do really fine but most visitors want to visit those times when there are so many festivals and activities happening,” he said.
It is very difficult to promote the off seasons packages, he said. The main problem is with visitors who come on their own through local travel agents, he added.
“We have submitted the proposal to the government on how to regulate the regional tourists and by the end of the year, we should have clear directives on how to manage the regional tourism. If this come through, it will gives directives to all the stakeholders on how to manage the regional tourists,” he said.