International tourist arrivals expected to reach between 55% and 70% of 2019 levels in 2022 

Dechen Dolkar 

Despite the drop in arrivals, 16,520 tourists have visited the country since the opening of the border in September this year.

Records with the Department of Immigration show that of the total arrivals, 8,273 were Indian tourists paying the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) Nu 1200, so far this year. However, only about 3,431 tourists have visited paying SDF of USD 200.  About 4,816 tourists visited paying the old SDF of USD 65 per night.

Since the opening of tourism, the industry has generated a revenue of approximately USD 7.06M and Nu 46.68M from SDF.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, around 15,000 tourists visited the country in the months of January and February, 2019, according to Tourism Monitor 2019. More than 30,000 tourists visited in the months of November and December. The earnings was USD 23.42M from SDF and USD 88.63M in total from tourism.

Most tourists visiting Bhutan are from India followed by the United States with 2,141 tourists and the United Kingdom with 635 tourists. In the previous years, majority tourists were from the United States and China. The lowest number of tourists this year was from Mexico with 21 tourists. 

The average duration of stay of international tourists is 7.77 nights and 4.89 nights for Indian tourists.

Data on how many tourists visited the Eastern and Southern parts of the country are not available.

Tour operators said that most of the tourists visit till Punakha and Phobjikha with a few  travelling till Bumthang.

As per the state of the nation report, around 137,000 visitors are expected to arrive in 2025 which is around 44 percent of visitors in 2019. However, the spending is estimated to rise with SDF revenues reaching pre-Covid-19 level by the end of 2023.

According to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization’s tourism barometer, arrivals in Europe and the Americas were still 43 percent and 46 percent below 2019 levels respectively. Asia and pacific recorded 93 percent below 2019 as several destinations remained closed for non-essential travel.

International tourist arrivals are now expected to reach between 55 percent and 70 percent of 2019 levels in 2022, depending on circumstances including the rate at which destinations continue to lift travel restrictions, coronavirus and global economic conditions, particularly inflation and energy prices.

Tourism experts expect global tourism to reach the 2019 level by 2023.

In Bhutan, as a conservative forecast, the arrivals in 2023 are expected to be about 20 percent of 2019.  Arrivals are not expected to reach the 2019 level even by 2025.

An official from the Department of Tourism said that the introduction and implementation of Tourism Levy Act 2022 will have an impact on arrivals. It is also assumed that arrivals from India will decline by 50 percent when compared to normal projections.