More than 3,300 Japanese tourists visited Bhutan under the offer

Tourism: A total of 3,348 Japanese tourists visited Bhutan during the three months of June, July and August, this year, according to the preliminary report compiled by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) on the Bhutan-Japan friendship offer.

This was five times higher than that of the months of June, July and August in 2015, with just 625 Japanese visiting the country.

The three-month special offer was provided in celebration of the 30th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries and to celebrate the Birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey. The offer was also made to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s arrival in Bhutan and to celebrate the birth year of Guru Rinpoche.

During the special offer, Japanese visitors did not have to pay the USD 200 daily tariff, and were levied only the daily royalty of USD 65 per person per night. Airlines offered a 50 percent discount on airfare, and hotels also offered discounts of up to 50 percent. Japanese visitors were also given flexibility of choice in services.

A total royalty and visa fees of USD 1.02 million (M) has been collected during the offer period as compared to USD 221,565 in 2015 for the same months.

In 2012, around 6,967 Japanese tourists visited Bhutan but the number of visitors decreased to 2,437 in 2015. The decline in Japanese tourists visiting Bhutan started in 2013.

Shortage of Japanese language guides and lack of flights to Bhutan from Bangkok were some of the challenges faced by tour operators.

“Adding to the challenge was the unfortunate incident of hailstone damaging a Drukair aircraft that led to disruption in schedule and having to re-route and re-schedule tourists,” the report states.

According to a survey by TCB, 80 percent of visitors said that the special offer was the main reason for visiting Bhutan this year. More than 58 percent responded that they knew they would not have to pay the mandatory minimum daily package rate.

The report states that 33 percent of the total visitors during the offer period were male and 67 percent were female. The majority were over 55 years of age.

The report states that the average cost of tours for Japanese was USD 2,319.96. Despite knowing about the flexibility of choice of services, many visitors included all services including accommodation, meals, guide, ground transportation, and recreational activities in their packages.

Around 50.6 percent of the respondents said they heard about the special offer from travel agencies while 20.6 percent from TCB’s Japanese website. Word of mouth also played a significant role in creating awareness about the offer reaching 18.2 percent of the total respondents. Some also knew about the offer through television, promotional events and other sources of information.

Most of the visitors stayed in three- and four-star hotels and resorts while only around nine percent stayed in a five-star hotel and resort. Around nine percent also chose to stay in a farmhouse.

Most visitors held a bachelor’s degree and above, while around 32.4 percent responded that their highest level of education was junior college, vocational school, high school, or middle school.

Most respondents were corporate employees, followed by government employees. Some were housewives and husbands while 11.2 percent responded that they were unemployed.

While respondents rated accommodation, meals, transport, guide, services, and cultural outdoor activities as very good, overall shopping, choice of products and road infrastructures were rated poor.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue