Jigmi Wangmi

Since the reopening of the country’s border to foreign guests in September of last year, a total of 39,160 tourists have visited the country so far. 

The minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment, Lyonpo Karma Dorji, said that Bhutan’s tourism sector would reach the pre-pandemic level only by 2025.

“We have already done a lot to increase tourist arrivals. We are promoting new products such as the Trans Bhutan Trail. We have also reduced the monument fees which has increased pilgrimage tours,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo also added that the roadside amenities have been improved for tourists.

“We have also hired an ex-pat who is working as the Chief Marketing Officer and is carrying out international marketing campaigns,” said Lyonpo.

According to Lyonpo, the marketing campaigns have already reached 664 million audiences and Bhutan is being promoted as one of the 37 best places to travel to in 2023.

Bhutan is being promoted as the ultimate family destination.

“We are also planning to make Bhutan a year-round destination and not just for seasonal tourists like in the past,” Lyonpo said.

To make this happen, Tashigang, Lhuntse, Mongar, Tashiyangtse, and Zhemgang will have new ecotourism projects.

Lyonpo said that the ministry is also in the works with India to allow tourists to use the entry/exit points in the south of the country.

“Hotels will have to fulfil the minimum standard which is Blue Poppy 1. If the hotels fulfil the standards above this can host guests,” Lyonpo said, adding that this will allow tourists to choose their hotels; they won’t have to stay in three-star and above hotels.

Another plan is to introduce time-bound SDF promotion for longer-staying guests.

“We found through the current data that Asian guests stay for five days and Western and European guests stay for seven days. We are looking at the promotion of the SDF for those who stay more than these days,” Lyonpo said.

Tourists who visit Bhutan and have an interest in helping Bhutan preserve its environment will also be granted the SDF promotion. “These will be for those tourists who want to come to Bhutan and plant trees and do other activities to promote the environment.”

Lyonpo said that the plans for the new airport at Gelephu could also help in increasing tourism. “The airport can improve access and also increase more international flights and this will give travellers more choice of flights.”