Rinzin Wangchuk 

While the concern was that the Sustainable Development Fee of Nu 1,200 imposed on tourists from India would restrict tourists from the neighbouring country,  a group of 36 tour operators from India had better ideas, in line with the tourism policy.

The group during a recent visit committed to promote Bhutan as a quality tourism destination by bringing quality tourists.  They appreciated the policy and wanted to help Bhutan fulfill the policy of high-value, low-volume tourism.

“Our initiative to bring in quality tourists would help in fulfilling Bhutan’s noble policy,” said  the finance director of Guwahati-based Destination Management Company (DMC), Lets See Tours and Travels Private Limited, Lohit Sharma, who met the Prime Minister and officials from the tourism department.

“Our company is committed to bringing conscious tourists to Bhutan who will contribute to the sustainable development of the country’s tourism sector.  Lohit Sharma brought 36 Indian tour operators on a “Bhutan familiarisation (FAM)  trip 2023” from January 5 to 12. On January 7, they interacted with Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and director general Dorji Dhradul.

Explaining the new policy, Lyonchhen said that Bhutan didn’t have any written tourism policies until a couple of months ago. “We just have a statement, you all know the statement, it’s commonly used but least understood – high value, low volume,” Lyonchhen said. “When we say high value, we don’t mean rich tourists. When we say low volume we don’t mean less in number.”

“When we say high value it’s not just for tourists, it’s for all of us,” Lyonchhen added. “We want all our guests to come to Bhutan and get a totally different experience, not a conventional five-star, seven-star feel, just a totally different feel. And we thought that feeling must come out of the unique features of Bhutan.”

Lyonchhen said that the high-value nomenclature is not just for visitors but for all. “We want to ensure that the environment is as clean as possible,  that areas you visit should be the safest areas on earth –  cleanest, safest and most unique places on earth,” he said.

The tour operators from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi said they were impressed with the new tourism policy and that the SDF was a noble move to invest in the tourism sector  and make it a high-end destination. “We are impressed by the overall scenic beauty, the environment and hospitality of Bhutanese,” Chetan Bhattarai from Assam said. Another tour operator from Maharashtra said there is definitely something different about Bhutan.

On September 23 last year, Bhutan reopened its borders to the world, welcoming international guests back after more than two years. More than 8,273 Indian visitors paying the SDF Nu 1,200 visited Bhutan as of December 2022.

Lets See Tour and Travels has been working in Bhutan since 2010. “We are both happy and proud to be able to deliver happiness to our guests in Bhutan so far,” Lohit Sharma said. “As a DMC from India we strongly believe that Bhutan offers ample space and place for all its guests to reconnect with themselves”

The Bhutan FAM Trip 2023 is a small step to bring the B2B stakeholders together on a single platform to promote Bhutan as a tourist destination.

The tour operators started from Phuentsholing and spent two days in Thimphu and visited Punakha yesterday. They will also visit Paro before travelling to India via Phuentsholing.

They complaint about high air fares to Paro from India but also agreed that Bagdogra and Guwahati are two alternatives they can work on to bring tourists to Bhutan.