… including 28 who paid the new levy of USD 200
Bhutan received 120 international visitors when it reopened its borders yesterday after remaining shut for more than two years.
They were excited and overwhelmed to be welcomed with Bhutanese hospitality including gift bags, a cultural show and refreshments at the Paro International Airport.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) welcomed a total of 120 foreigners and 67 Bhutanese guests at the Paro International Airport on four flights from Kathmandu, Delhi, Bangkok and Kolkata.
Of the 120, 28 guests paid the full USD 200 Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), 48 guests paid the old SDF of USD 65, and 16 guests paid Nu 1,200. Others were on official tours.
It marked the official arrival of the first international guests to Bhutan since borders were closed almost two and half years ago.
TCB, Director General, Dorji Dhradhul, said that it was such a pleasure and honour to welcome guests back to “our beautiful country”. “Days like this reflect the pure joy of working in tourism, of loving travel, and of believing that life is more enriched with travel,” he said.
Gro Holm Rypestoel, a 75-year-old from Norway, arrived on the flight from Kathmandu. She was one of the first international guests to Bhutan in 1974 when Bhutan opened to tourism. She was 26 years old then.
She visited the country to help set up a school for the blind and since then has visited many times. The last time she visited Bhutan was in 2019.
She is here to train people with disabilities for four weeks.
Eva and Batya Harari, 76 years old, arrived on the flight from Delhi, and are identical twins who live in Germany and Israel. When they were 14 years old they had the dream to visit Bhutan.
They will spend 11 days travelling from Paro to Thimphu, Punakha and to Gangtey. “It’s always been our dream to visit Bhutan. When the plane was landing we couldn’t breathe from excitement; we were crying from happiness,” the twins said.
Karen Darke, MBE, arrived on the flight from Bangkok. Originally from Scotland, Karen is a British paralympic cyclist, paratriathlete, adventurer and author.
She is also a Paralympian Gold Medallist for the UK and she’s on a trip across Bhutan in a wheelchair, hand-cycling from Paro to Bumthang in 12 days. She is joined by 10 other people in a group who will cycle and walk with her. Her mission is to help people find ‘inner gold’ or inner wisdom and happiness.
Similarly, a couple from the USA paying USD 200 a day is visiting Bhutan for the first time on a 10-day visit. They came on vacation since the husband retired last year. Cyndi, the 65-year old wife said, that they had been planning this trip to Bhutan one year ago. After landing at the airport, Hal, 67-year old husband, said that they could breathe the fresh air and they were impressed with the elaborate reception.
The couple will go around trekking and sightseeing. They came through a travel agent.
Meanwhile, the airport’s arrival hall, there is a foreign exchange counter which is the first counter, tourists information counter, SIM card counter, and taxi booking counter to assist the visitors.