Since 2009 to date, the number of dollar-paying footfalls has more than doubled

Tourism: The 29 percent increase in international or dollar paying tourist arrivals last year against the previous year, earned the industry revenue of USD 73.2 million (M), the highest so far.

Since 2009, the tourism sector recorded a steady increase in revenue from dollar-paying tourists, along with the increase in visitors, annually, a recent Royal Monetary Authority bulletin shows.  Tourism earnings in 2010 stood at USD 35M that increased to USD 47.7M and USD 62.8M in the following years.  In 2013, tourism earnings stood at USD 63.5M.

Similarly from 23,480 international tourists in 2009, arrivals increased to 58,022 last year, the bulletin states.  The international tourists pay a daily minimum tariff of USD 250 and USD 200 during the peak and lean seasons respectively.

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) officials attributed the increase in revenue mainly to the increase in arrivals, while tour operators said the dollar exchange rate also attributed to it.

“The exchange rate determines how much money the tourism sector makes,” a tour operator said. “The resilient exchange rate in the recent years helped the sector.”

Some attributed it to the change in the daily minimum tariff since 2012, which was revised from USD 200 and USD 180 for peak and lean seasons respectively.

Records with TCB show about 68,081 international visitors last year, who include visitors for meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and media familarisation tours.

Thai tourists topped the list of international source market with 12,105 visitors last year with the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer.  They are followed by 8,111 Chinese, 7,291 Americans and 2,971 Germans tourists.

In 2013, Americans dominated the international arrivals segment with 6,927 visitors.  It was in the same year that Chinese emerged as the second major source market with 4,764. Thais came next with 3,494 visitors, while 2,753 German visitors were recorded in the same year.

The country usually records the highest arrivals from the US followed by Japan.  In 2010, Germany saw an increase of about 42 percent in arrivals, overtaking UK that saw a decline in visitors that year.

China made it to the top five major markets for the first time in 2010, with an increase of about 30 percent in arrivals from 2009.  Since then, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Bhutan has been on the rise.

Despite the increase in arrivals from neighbouring Asian countries every year, records with TCB indicate longer visit period of Americans, contributing to higher revenue, followed by countries like UK and Germany.

Last year, during the lean season months of June, July and August, when the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer for Thai tourists was on, the country recorded earnings of about USD 9M.  During the same time in 2013, the revenue stood at USD 6.1M.

As a part of the offer, Thai nationals and others with proof of residency in Thailand didn’t pay the mandatory minimum daily tariff of USD 200 for the lean summer months.  Instead they were levied the daily royalty of USD 65, while tour operators had to compete to develop attractive packages.

The national airlines, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines also offered about 50 percent discount on airfare, while hotels provided up to 50 percent concession on the rates.

Meanwhile, regional tourist arrivals recorded a slight increase from the previous year with 65,399 visitors, of which 62,129 were Indians.  In 2013, 63,426 regional tourists visited the country.

Visitors from India, Maldives, and Bangladesh are known as regional visitors and exempt from the daily minimum tariff.

By Kinga Dema


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