Sherab Lhamo

Drukair’s financial performance improved post-Covid-19, driven by a rise in tourist arrivals. Although not fully recovered from pandemic losses, first-quarter 2024 data shows a 23 percent increase in passenger traffic compared to the previous year’s same period.

Drukair’s CEO, Tandi Wangchuk, said that this year they witnessed a significant growth in tourist numbers, leading to profitable international operations for the airline.

In the first quarter of 2024, Bhutan welcomed 41,394 tourists, a notable increase from the 26,465 visitors in the same period last year. This surge generated revenue of USD 13 million, as reported by the Department of Tourism.

During peak seasons such as March, April, September, and October, the majority of international tourists visiting Bhutan choose to travel to Bumthang.

 Tandi Wangchuk said that Drukair was able to cover the basic operating costs through domestic airports.

There are two peak seasons when flights experience high occupancy rates—during the winter months of December, January, and February, local residents opt for flights to avoid hazardous road conditions, and during the monsoon, travellers prefer flights to circumvent roadblocks caused by landslides.

Tandi Wangchuk said that during the school holidays in December and January, there was an increase in Bhutanese travellers. Conversely, in other seasons such as March, April, September, and October, there is a higher influx of tourist travellers.

Drukair recorded a pre-tax profit (PBT) of Nu 291 million in fiscal year 2023. However, after taxes, the company experienced a net loss of Nu 62.8 million.

Tandi Wangchuk said that, post Covid-19, international travel patterns were highly erratic. Initially, the majority of passenger traffic was outbound from Bhutan, which Tandi Wangchuk attributed to a significant number of Bhutanese traveling to Australia.

Inbound flights had minimal passengers, resulting in limited profitability.

Tandi Wangchuk said that the company was striving to meet operational expenses and anticipates a full recovery from covid-time losses within five years.

As of April 2024, the majority of Drukair passengers, 48 percent, belonged to the “others” category —travellers not from SAARC region or Bhutan, followed by Bhutanese travellers at 44 percent, and SAARC nationals comprising eight percent of Drukair travellers.

Drukair is exploring the possibility of expanding routes to Dubai, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad in India, in the near future.