Int’l tourists bemoan bad roads

International tourists also had issues with food and improper waste management

Tourism: Conditions of the national highways followed by improper waste management and food quality rated highly among complaints that international tourists highlighted during their visit to Bhutan last year.

More than 40 percent of the international tourists, during the exit survey conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan last year, pointed out discomfort while travelling on national highways given poor road conditions. Therefore, they suggested improvement of highways.

“Many felt the poor road conditions would discourage future tourism prospects, especially in a niche industry highly influenced by word-of-mouth advertisement,” the recently released Bhutan tourism monitor 2015 states.

This was followed by about 25 percent of the visitors expressing concerns over improper waste management prominent along trails, and towns and villages. While visitors appreciated the pristine environment, they expressed concerns over its sound, long-term management.

About 12 percent felt that food in hotels and restaurants needed improvement in terms of diversification besides expressing concerns over hygiene. Threats posed by stray dogs in the streets, lack of cleanliness in public rest rooms and sanitation were also issues, which according to tourists, required improvement.

When the exit survey was administered on 5,022 international tourists departing Bhutan, they were provided with an option to personally write out their comments, views, complaints, and suggestions relating to their visit. Among them, 255 visitors provided comments and ranked these thematic issues.

With a growth of over 16 percent, the country recorded 155,121 regional and international visitors last year. While regional tourists saw an unprecedented growth of about 49 percent with 97,584 visitors, international tourists dropped by about 16 percent with 48,800 visitors. The drop in international arrivals is mainly attributed to the Nepal earthquake. The tourism monitor also stated that the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer in 2014 recorded an unprecedented number of Thai visitors.

Among the regional visitors, a majority arrived over land and about 27 percent of them by air. Most regional tourists visited in May, October and December.

The tourism monitor also states that almost half of international tourists last year were from the Asia/Pacific region. Tourists from China accounted for about 19 percent of the total visitors, a growth of about 16 percent from the previous year. The United States followed as the second source market at about 14 percent and Thailand at about seven percent.

According to the tourism monitor, Chinese tourists dominated tours throughout the year except in October and November. As the second largest source market, arrivals from the US dropped by about two percent last year. Similarly, visitors from Thailand also dropped by about 69 percent. Tourists from the UK grew by about 10 percent, and Singapore by about 45 percent to capture fourth and fifth places. The rest of the top 10 source markets were Germany, Japan, Australia, France, and Malaysia.

The drop in international tourists also led to a drop in earnings by about three percent.  The total revenue from tourism last year stood at USD 71.04 million (M) from USD 73.2M the previous year. The drop was attributed to regional events, including the bombing in Bangkok and earthquake in Nepal as both cities are the main entry and exit points for Bhutan.

Among international tourists, about 90 percent availed air services to enter the country, while less than 10 percent used land services. About 93 percent and six percent of the visitors used air and land services to exit Bhutan. Close to half of all visitors entered and exited Bhutan through Bangkok, followed by Kathmandu.

As is the trend, majority of tourists visited Bhutan for cultural sightseeing and related activities, travelling in groups comprising one to four members. October, March and April continued to be the most visited months. In all, about 37 percent of the international tourists visited Bhutan in the autumn and about 32 percent in spring.

International tourists spent an average of 6.93 nights in the country. The longest staying visitors were from Australia, UK, France and Germany spending more than eights nights in Bhutan.

Indicating regional imbalance, the western districts of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang continued to receive the highest number of tourists, as is the trend. Although these districts also recorded the highest number of bed nights, it was less compared to 2014 given the drop in international tourists. However, Tsirang, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Gasa, Lhuentse, Trashiyangtse, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashigang, Mongar, Haa, and Chukha received fewer tourists, but saw growth from 2014.

Kinga Dema 

1 reply
  1. A duty-bound citizen of Bhutan
    A duty-bound citizen of Bhutan says:

    The analysis report of tourists arrival in the Kingdom of Bhutan’s based on the opinion survey of 2055 international tourists by Tourism Council of Bhutan for the year 2015. therefore, the some of the outstanding problems highlighted in this report based on this exit survey of the international tourists is not necessarily very bad.
    Road: The larger part of the roads in-progress are completed or nearing completion, some even blacktopped or blacktopping, and others are yet to be accomplished. It won’t be long before all the road works in progress are completed in Bhutan. And Bhutan is going to have the best roads in the entire southeast Asian regions. The road was built by our forefathers in the early ’60s that too by the power of muscles! So, the road widening working undertaken by the Royal Government of Bhutan is basically to overcome the narrow roads in Bhutan!
    Food: It’s also my feeling that we’re not doing enough to provide the food of their choice. And every restaurant or hotel serves the same food, generally speakiing. There’s also a need to develop a menu in order of nationalities, so that visitors of all nationalities get to eat their own food. It’s also important that HAB learns the food habits of all nationalities visiting Bhutan to train their chef/cooks to serve the food they want to eat. A collective effort should come from the relevant stakeholders of tourism industry: TCB and HAB in particular. But for now this must-have coordination is missing between the two relevant stakeholders to address the longstanding issue of bad food!
    Toilet: TCB can do more if they want to, but the question of not having enough rest rooms or unclean toilets for tourists use have continue to remain an unsolved mystery to date!
    Safety issue: Natural calamity’s the work of nature. However, by the grace of Buddhas and the proctector deities of Bhutan, and the restrict tourim rule in place for the safty operation of tour in the country, the safety of tourists was never an issue and it should not be an issue. Visitors safety is our foremost priority and no travel agencies (and Crowning Bhutan Tours is no exception) in Bhutan compromise the safety of our visitors. We delegate the best SUV car and the driver, besides competent tour executive to run the tour for the duration of their stay in Bhutan! Our competent travel guide engage them intelligently besides informing them all the Do’s and Don’t’s well in advance. In other words, they guide them with an unobstructed sense of direction! Visitors have every reason to feel safe with us! Every tour operator helps them reach an informed decision through its package information. It means they come to know what to expect even before they come to Bhutan! However,it’s going to be a long way before we can accommodate all the predicaments of our visiting tourists. And what must be acknowledged is we’re not failing to make every effort to improve our services to meet all their expectations! Thank you for visiting our country and we look forward to welcome you again!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply