Tourism Council DG clarifies

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Opening tourism would depend on the government’s directives and how the pandemic situation will unfold, according to the Director General (DG) of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Dorji Dhradhul.

Clarifying the news article in an international media company, Forbes that said Bhutan is ready to welcome tourists, the DG said that there is no decision taken to open tourism in Bhutan.

The headline of the article in Forbes, which went viral on social media read, “Bhutan Ready to Welcome Back Tourism Following Zero Covid-19 Deaths.” “In the long range discussion with the director general, it is apparent that country is ready to begin welcoming tourists once the borders are open with other countries,” the article reported.

The DG clarified that the interview was focused on how tourism in the country is coping up with the current pandemic situation and the plans to welcome tourists post Covid-19.

The entry of tourists was banned after the first Covid-19 case was detected in 73-year old American tourist on March 6. Bhutan today has no tourist after the only tourist in the country who was the women that tested positive for Covid-19 left in April.

“It was the headline of the story that looked like Bhutan will open up for tourism since there is zero Covid-19 death,” the DG said. “From the TCB’s side, this was definitely not our view expressed during the interview.”

According to the DG, based on the council’s assessment and the current situation Bhutan cannot be opened to tourism at least not before November. “Even if we open after November this year, tourism will still take time to pick up especially tourists visiting Bhutan,” he said.

He added tourists would have to go through certain norms like compulsory quarantine and requirement of physical distancing.

“I can see zero tourists coming to Bhutan in 2020 even if we open unless a few high-end tourists decide to come,” he said. “If it opens in 2021, we might get 10,000 more tourists, which is less than what we used to get so far.”

Dorji Dhradhul said that tourist could be expected only by 2022, but we might receive only about 50 percent of what we see today and start receiving full tourists only by 2025.

“However, this is based on what we have assessed so far. It is going to take time, and we’re already working on the preparation for tourism post-Covid-19.”

The ban on tourist, after the pandemic, has resulted in a national revenue loss of USD 4.4 million after 2,550 international tourists cancelled due to Covid-19 between January 15 and March 23. It excludes cancellations from regional tourists.