The Department of Tourism (DoT) has come up with a marketing strategy to promote Bhutan abroad. It consists of raising awareness in media, engagement with international B2B (travel agents) and webinars, travel and trade events, advertising and digital marketing campaigns, domestic industry engagement and existing and new market activations.
Officials of DoT said that social media is also part of the strategy and they have several big influencers from Thailand, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom coming to Bhutan.
The second arm of the strategy has been engaging international travel agents and tour operators and the department is also working with the domestic tourism industry in the country.
A tourism official said that they have met with 40 hotels across the country, seeing how the department can support them with their sales and marketing activities and also giving suggestions.
Officials say that many hotels do not have dedicated sales and marketing staff, and they do not have any marketing outreach.
Three-star-rated hoteliers claimed that they cannot afford to recruit marketing officers. They said that, so far, they were dependent on tour operators for guests; some tour operators marketed their hotels.
Officials said that, in terms of markets, they are still actively marketing in Bhutan’s key global markets, but there is also huge potential in other markets, such as China and Russia.
Marketing Strategy for Regional Tourists
The arrival of tourists has dropped drastically in the international market compared with previous years. In Bhutan, there is also a drastic decrease in regional tourists.
The department is also focusing on regional tourists and India is a priority for Bhutan.
“We are about to finalize several marketing campaigns with big travel partners for joint marketing agreements where they will aggressively promote Bhutan to their millions of followers and, in return, they will guarantee a certain number of tourists,” an official said.
During the SATTE travel recent expo in Delhi, Indian agents said that the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is not an issue and Bhutan is an incredibly attractive destination for the Indian market.
According to tour operators in India, the cost of flights from India to Bhutan is very expensive compared with other destinations.
“We will also be working on creating new itineraries for guests, and developing events in Bhutan that attract foreign arrivals, as well as promoting existing festivals and events,” the official said.
The tourism sector still faces some challenges that have an impact on the overall guest experience.
For instance, there are still issues with the online payment gateway system when guests try to pay their SDF and visa fees online. Many of the transactions are not approved, sources said.
Furthermore, the lack of credit card payment facilities at retail outlets around the country limits how much people spend while they’re in Bhutan.
The new tourism strategy is limiting the number of hikers and trekkers that come for the Snowman trek and other long treks in the country as the daily fees become quite prohibitive for long stays.
The tourism official said that they are in discussion with relevant stakeholders about making small tweaks to the tourism strategy to support the industry at this time.
“We have an intensive marketing campaign planned over the next 6 to 12 months, while continually refining our strategic long-term marketing initiatives,” the official told Kuensel.