Phurpa Lhamo

Iron Female Ox year-Tourism: As the tourism sector moved forward from a disappointing 2020, the hope was that 2021 would be different.

The year began with the endorsement of the first tourism policy to ensure activities throughout the year. However, as days wore on, the sector saw it’s hopes wane and activities dwindle.

The budget report 2020 showed that revenue from the tourism sector declined by 41 percent in 2019-2020 compared with that of 2018-2019.

By 2020, arrivals dropped by 91 percent from 315,599 visitors in 2019 to 29,812 in 2020.

Similarly, gross receipts decreased by 92 percent, reaching USD 19.84 million in 2020 from USD 225.87 million in 2019. Direct revenue declined by 90.4 percent to USD 2.76 million in 2020 from 23.42 million in the previous year.

The year 2021 saw the arrival of first tourist, Fran Bak from America only in September.

Her entrance in the country was particularly remarkable as Bhutan had imposed the 21-day compulsory quarantine period for unvaccinated tourists and 14-day days for those who were vaccinated.

But pandemic also brought some urgent lessons and reforms in the sector. As the year came to an end, the SDF fee of USD 65 for international tourists and Nu 1,200 for regional tourists was lifted for days spent in quarantine.

The Office of Attorney General (OAG) interpreted the Tourism Levy Act 2020, which was earlier silent on the topic.

Further, discussion ensued with regard to issuance of one-time tourist visa tariff. However, the suggestion wasn’t accepted.

In many aspects, pandemic hit those in the tourism sector the worst. In 2020, more than 11,000 individuals in the tourism sector were recipients of the Druk Gyalpo’s relief kidu.

To address much of these issues, the infrastructure and product diversification plans was introduced. This meant infrastructure development of tourist sites to engage those who lost their jobs.

As the bold tiger stride in, only time will tell if the sector will rise like the Phoenix.