….USD 13 million collected from SDF                                  

Dechen Dolkar

Bhutan experienced a notable surge in tourism with 41,394 visitors arriving in the country during the initial four months of 2024. This figure stands in stark contrast to the 26,465 arrivals recorded during the corresponding period in 2023.

An official from the Department of Tourism highlighted a surge in April visitors, with 16,391 tourists this year compared to 13,769 in April 2023. They noted that this April marked the third busiest month since Bhutan reopened its borders post the Covid-19 pandemic in September 2022.

The estimated revenue collected from Sustainable Development Fees (SDF) between January and April 2024 is around USD 13 million.

A breakdown of visitor arrivals in 2024 reveals that 58 percent originated from India. The remaining 42 percent came from a diverse range of countries, including the US, China, the UK, Germany, Singapore, France, Italy, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, and Canada.

The official from the DoT said that some markets have almost reached or exceeded arrival numbers for the same period in 2019, including the USA, Singapore, and Germany markets.

New charter flights to meet demand

According to media reports in India, the online travel agency MakeMyTrip has announced a new exclusive charter service between Mumbai and Bhutan. This service is part of its holiday packages, and the exclusive charter will depart once a week.

The service has been launched due to the increasing popularity of Bhutan among Indian travellers.

On the MakeMyTrip platform, Bhutan is among the five most-searched emerging destinations, with a year-on-year increase of more than 200 percent.

The charted flight is catered by Drukair and Bhutan Airlines from Mumbai to Paro and Bengaluru to Paro.

Currently, 12  charted flights are booked, five chartered flight with Drukair and seven with Bhutan Airlines, starting from April 27 to June 2 this year, each carrying around 120 to 130 passengers from three tour companies from India.

The Department of Immigration confirms that the data includes only visitors entering Bhutan as tourists and excludes those entering under any other category.