Bhutan tourism back on track – TTR Weekly

Posted on: November 23rd, 2023

THIMPHU Bhutan, 11 October 2023: Bhutan welcomed 9,559 visitors in September, representing a 34% increase over its forecasted 6,788 monthly arrivals. 

Visits from 23 September 2022 to 1 October 2023 totalled 89,326, while visits to Bhutan from January to September 2023 reached 67,673.

In September, the top source markets for Bhutan included India, the US, China, the UK, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Indonesia, Australia and Japan.

Of the total 89,326 (23 September 2022 to 1 October 2023), 61,162 were Indian nationals, and 28,164 were other international visitors (10,844 paid the old SDF rate, with 17,320 paying the new SDF rate).  

Of the Indian visitors, 13,573 applied for their permit before arriving in Bhutan, while 47,589 received it on arrival. 

The visa fees and SDF revenues collected from non-Indian guests amounted to approximately USD1,126,560 and USD18,560,384, respectively, while the SDF revenue collected from Indian guests was approximately BTN306,947,209. The total revenue for all visa and SDF revenue reached USD23,377,000 since September last year. The SDF revenue funds projects such as free healthcare and education for all Bhutanese, infrastructure upgrades, environmental projects and more.

“September witnessed a strong influx of visitors, particularly during the Thimphu Tshechu. We are also encouraged to see a resurgence in visitors from both India and China,” said Department of Tourism director-general Dorji Dhradhul. “Most of the international guest bookings for September were made before the SDF100 revision took effect, underscoring the enduring allure of our destination. We anticipate good visitor arrival numbers over the next few months, allowing time for the new tourism incentives to be marketed and sold.” 

Indian arrival numbers to Bhutan have not been as strong as expected in recent months despite extensive sales and marketing outreach over the past year by the DOT, Bhutanese tour operators, hotels, and other tourism industry stakeholders. 

After speaking with several prominent Indian travel agents, airline fares and routes remain the key concerns. At the same time, several partners also reported that all Himalayan destinations were impacted heavily between June to August 2023 due to the unusually heavy monsoon and flash floods in some locations. 

It was reported that other destinations such as Himachal, Ladakh and Kashmir also suffered tourism losses and low tourist arrival numbers over the summer due to the unusually heavy monsoon. September showed a strong rebound of Indian numbers, and October is likewise expected to be strong.

“With more Indian visitors expected to arrive over the next couple of months, we strongly encourage tour operators to recommend their guests register for their permit before arrival to minimise any disruption at the borders,” Dhradhul added.

Tourism data from a guest satisfaction survey during the past four months also shows that 84% of visitors to Bhutan are first-time visitors, and 42% of visitors stay in Bhutan for between five to seven nights. Nearly half of all visitors are aged between 33 to 49, and nearly a third of all visitors are aged between 50 to 65. DOT’s guest satisfaction survey was started in July 2023 and currently has more than 550 responses. 

DOT forecasts that 98,000 guests will visit Bhutan from January to December 2023. October is starting to be a promising month, with 756 arrivals in a single day.

Source: TravelTradeToday Ltd