Phurpa Lhamo

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will recommend visa issuance to tourists only after necessary conditions like hotels where tourists will stay, tourist’s health insurance, itinerary, tour guide and transport arrangements are confirmed.

TCB’s director general, Dorji Dhradhul, said the conditions were necessary to ensure a tourist have a good experience as required by the tourism policy of high-value low volume and Brand Bhutan.

“All tourists come with high expectations and the Covid-19 raised the expectations on health and hygiene even higher,” he said.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s office on March 12 stated that starting from April 25, the quarantine period for international travellers who are fully vaccinated and with RT-PCR negative certificate would be reduced to five days. Those who are unvaccinated will have to undergo quarantine for 10 days.

Dorji Dhradhul said that the decision was a progressive move from complete closure of 21 days to 14 days and to 10 and five days. “This would naturally take the country to zero quarantine day.”

TCB has already developed a standard operating procedure on clean and safe services such as hotels and designated quarantine facilities for tourists to open up.

Amid the pandemic, officials have also been promoting Bhutan in various platforms. “Bhutan as a travel destination was well recognised globally and if it is upheld, there would be no dearth of tourists,” Dorji Dhradhul said.

Except for the qurantine services, the tourists wouldn’t be charged with the sustainable development fee and the minimum daily wage rate during the quarantine period of 5 and 10 days.

Despite the decreased number of quarantine period and waived off SDF, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan  (HRAB) chairman, Sonam Wangchuk, said that number of tourists entry would be minimal due to the quarantine period.

He claimed that going by the past tourist arrival patterns, the average length of stay was five to seven nights.

However, the reduction in the quarantine period to five days is much welcomed and was a hope in the dark, said Sonam Wangchuk.

Chairman Sonam Wangchuk said that as of now, the relevant stakeholders were ready to open for tourists as the stakeholders had never been ripped of what they had already been providing prior to the pandemic.

He added that tour agents are keeping in touch with agents overseas and promoting Bhutan. Also, tour guides and related individuals are ready to fall back once tourism opens.

In the many meetings and discussions held in the past, stakeholders have been requesting to remove the quarantine period to zero.

Once the quarantine period is entirely removed, amenities could be renovated or upgraded and displaced guides can be brought back to work, said Sonam Wangchuk.

“As long as we are given appropriate timeline before we open, there is no point that we aren’t ready. Hotels and service sector has always been ready to welcome tourists.”