KP Sharma

In a bid to revive Bhutan’s tourism sector, Prime Minister engaged in vital discussions with Indian tour companies during the recent visit to India.

The focus was on devising strategies to bolster tourism, which has been struggling  aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the meetings, both sides talked about ways to bring tourism back to life in Bhutan and make it easier for tourists to come back to the country.

Talking to Indian tour companies was important because it means working together on advertising, promotions, and creating appealing travel deals to bring more tourists to Bhutan.

The talks are happening at the right time, especially with government aiming to bring in 300,000 tourists each year, including 150,000 regional tourists.

Moreover, the Prime Minister’s hands-on approach in spearheading advertising efforts abroad, as pledged during the campaign, is shown by his actions during the trip to India. This confirms the government’s dedication to showcasing Bhutan as an attractive place for tourists to visit.

During the event organised by FICCI, Prime Minister recognised how tourism directly helps Bhutan’s economy and thanked Indian partners for their assistance in promoting tourism to the country.

He said that Indian visitors can come to Bhutan not just to enjoy its exceptional beauty and tranquility but also to honor the special bond between the two nations, making Bhutan a secure and rewarding place to visit.

He urged tour operators to share their thoughts on how Bhutan can improve its services for tourists and welcomed creative ideas that fit well with Bhutan’s unique culture and environment.

Lyonchhen also encouraged them to visit Bhutan and share their experiences with others around the world, thereby promoting the country as a desirable tourist destination.

In addition, he highlighted a special package that offers a reduced Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for tourists from neighboring regions, aiming to make Bhutan more accessible and appealing to visitors from nearby countries.

Lyonchhen also emphasised incentives like quicker visa approvals and online visa processing to make it easier for tourists to enter Bhutan without any hassle.

However, he cautioned that while tourism is important for Bhutan’s economy, the country won’t adopt aggressive marketing tactics to avoid being overwhelmed by tourists all year round.

Lyonchhen reiterated the concept of “High value, Low volume” tourism, stating the importance of maintaining Bhutan’s unique cultural and environmental heritage while catering to a sustainable number of visitors.

The goal of attracting 150,000 regional tourists, he said, is carefully determined according to Bhutan’s initial capacity, ensuring that tourism expansion is handled responsibly to maintain Bhutan’s natural beauty and authenticity.

Many Indian tour operators conveyed to the Prime Minister the interest among tourists to visit Bhutan and highlighted their efforts to ease their entry into the country.

However, they also voiced concerns about challenges like limited flight options, which can result in delays and inconvenience for tourists, disrupting their travel arrangements.

Some operators suggested the possibility of starting flights to cities like Mumbai and other places to provide more convenient entry points for tourists.

They cited the increasing number of chartered flights in the coming months as evidence of the potential demand for such routes.

Prime Minister acknowledged the limitations of his authority over aviation companies but assured the operators that he would work closely with them.

He expressed willingness to request aviation companies to explore the possibility of expanding flight options if they agree to it.

Some tour companies highlighted the importance of upgrading hotels with better facilities and ensuring an adequate number of staff to accommodate the increasing number of tourists.

They also highlighted the need to expand tourism beyond popular destinations like Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha, and introduce more amenities to enhance the overall visitor experience.

Prime minister assured that as tourism in Bhutan picks up, hotels and their services would naturally improve to meet the growing demand.

He also said the government’s intention to focus on marketing eastern Bhutan, citing improved road connectivity in the region.

Prime Minister said that in the coming years, tourists would have access to a wider range of experiences beyond visiting monasteries and dzongs, including activities such as trails, riverine walks, rafting, meditation, and mountain climbing, among others.