non-tariff persons included in high-end tourist tab, new job figure also based on assumptions
It was assumed that 300 active tour operators will – on an average – employ seven people and inactive tour operators will employ two employees. This showed that additional 420 tour operator jobs were created
Though the number of high-end tourists that visited the country last year was a record 40, 873 people, some tour operators are not pleased with the figure as it has included even non tariff paying regional tourists.
Of the total figure, 13,677 tourists are regional and business guests, most of whom are non-tariff paying Meeting Incentives Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) visitors.
“If the regional tourists are included in the tourist figure then what about the royalty that should be going to the government,” asked Nedup Tshering of Bhutan Lotus Adventure.
Last year, 7,067 MICE visitors arrived in the country but no figures were obtained for the year before that. Of the total figure of MICE visitors, 1,267 entered Bhutan via Druk Air and 4,557 via road. Those visitors who entered Bhutan via air were directly included in the international tourist arrivals on an assumption that 60% of MICE visitors would be international travelers.
A TCB officer said the 2009 MICE visitor’s figure was not available because the figures had to come through immigration.
The total number of international tourist arrival last year was 27, 196, which is an increase of 3, 716 compared to 2009 figures with a 16% growth.
“I think it is a good figure looking at the ripple effect of 2008 global economic recession,” said T. Sangay Wangchuk, the director of Etho Metho Tours and Treks.
Despite including non-tariff paying tourists, the tourism sector has done well in the backdrop of the global financial crisis, riots in Bangkok and the ash clouds in Europe. Surpassing the targeted figure of 35,000 tourists, an increase of 56% of regional high end tourists was also recorded.
In 2009, 4,227 regional tourists came to Bhutan and last year 6,610 tourists were recorded.
The 56% growth in regional high-end tourists is considered important especially for the hoteliers.
There are lots of tourists who do not come via tour operators but avail the facility of hotels, vehicles and guides which include them in the high-end tourist figures, especially if they enter Bhutan via air.
“Given the high air fare of Druk Air, we assume that regional tourists via air are high-end tourist,” said a TCB official.
On the other hand, a tour operator said that he would like to see increase in tax and tariff rather than an increase in the figures of tourist arrivals.
He said, “Tariff is the main ring for tourism but there are no proper records of the income that the country is getting through tourism.”
The recent figures of tourist arrivals in the country were based on the report by Mckinsey, which is mostly based on assumptions.
For instance, TCB said an additional 2,600 jobs were created of the targeted figure of 17,000 jobs. But there are no hard facts to prove that the jobs were created.
It is assumed that 300 active tour operators will on an average employ seven people and inactive tour operators will employ two employees. This showed that additional 420 tour operator jobs were created to already the existing 2, 685.