Dechen Dolkar

What could be welcomed among the SAARC member countries, the national airline, Druk Air, has announced a reduction in airfares for SAARC countries wanting to visit Bhutan.

 Druk Air has a three-tier fare system, one for Bhutanese, one for SAARC nationals and one for the rest of the passengers.  Druk Air Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tandi Wangchuk, said that before the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline aimed at transitioning to a single fare system, enabling a seamless move to a global distribution platform and the introduction of a dynamic pricing system.

“We planned to move from a three-tier to two-tier and then to a single-tier system. However as this will take more time, we are reverting to the three-tier system for the time being again to assist recovery of the tourism industry,” said the CEO.

The reintroduction of the SAARC fare came into effect from November 20. The fare on average is approximately 43 percent cheaper than the one levied on foreigners across all international sectors.

CEO Tandi Wangchuk said the fare was reduced to boost tourism which was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The revised sustainable development fee for SAARC nationalities also affected tourist arrival necessitating a change to uplift tourism.

Tandi Wangchuk said that by bringing back the SAARC fare, the aim is to entice travellers from SAARC nations, breathing new life into Bhutan’s tourism industry and energising the national economy.

Moreover, he said that this move aligns with Bhutan’s efforts to strengthen ties with neighbouring SAARC nations, bettering diplomatic relations and generating economic advantages for both Druk Air and local tourism-dependent businesses. “Ultimately, this initiative aims to bolster national development and prosperity.”

Many claim that the airfare in Bhutan is expensive compared to other regions affecting allied businesses.  CEO Tandi Wangchiuk said that although they haven’t received any proposal from the government to reduce airfare, they remain dedicated to consistently reviewing airfares.

“As our operational overhead costs gradually decrease with increased operations, our ultimate intention is to pass on these benefits to our passengers in due course,” the CEO said.

Meawwhile, Bhutan Airlines also reintroduced reduced fares for SAARC nations effective from yesterday.