… they will travel on two chartered flights from Hanoi to Paro

Rinzin Wangchuk

What could be the biggest group of visitors from a single country after Bhutan reopened its borders on September 23, 110 visitors from Vietnam are expected to arrive today.

They charted a Drukair flight and a private jet from Hanoi to Paro, according to the Thimphu-based tour operator.

All tourists are on a four-day pilgrimage trip to Bhutan under the new Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 200 a day. Together they will contribute SDF amounting to USD 88,000 at current USD-Ngultrum exchange rates.

Media, however, reports severe weather across Vietnam from September 28 to October 1 as tropical typhoon Noru moves from the South China Sea onto middle Vietnam on Wednesday. This might disrupt flight schedules from Vietnam, according to the tour agent.

Bhutan received 120 international visitors when it reopened its borders on September 23 after remaining shut for more than two years. However, they arrived in different groups on four flights from Kathmandu, Delhi, Bangkok and Kolkata.

Of the 120, 28 tourists paid the full USD 200 SDF.

During the unveiling of Bhutan’s national brand, ‘Believe’, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the SDF will be invested in projects that support Bhutan’s economic, social, environmental and cultural development.

The fees raised will fund national investment in programmes that preserve Bhutan’s cultural traditions, as well as sustainability projects, infrastructure upgrades and opportunities for youth – as well as providing free healthcare and education for all.

Lyonchhen said that some of the SDF go towards offsetting the carbon footprint of visitors by planting trees, upskilling workers in the tourism sector, cleaning and maintaining trails, reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and electrifying Bhutan’s transportation sector, among other projects.