The tourism industry, a vital pillar of our economy, is poised to receive Nu 2 billion from the government’s Nu 15 billion economic stimulus programme. This infusion of funds is a much-needed lifeline for a sector that has been severely impacted by the pandemic. With the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE) setting an ambitious target of attracting 300,000 tourists annually and generating Nu 2.56 billion in revenue, the stakes are high.

For this year, the goal is to welcome 200,000 tourists, with a significant portion – 70 percent –expected to be Indian tourists paying the Nu 1,200 sustainable development fee (SDF), and the remaining 30 percent being USD 100-paying tourists. The ministry’s strategic plan aims to shift this ratio to 60:40 (Indian: USD paying tourists) by 2025 and achieve a balanced 50:50 ratio in the following year. As of April, Bhutan has seen 41,390 tourist arrivals, with 58.4 percent coming from India.

Tourism is not just an economic driver; it is a reflection of our national identity and heritage. It remains one of the highest contributors to Bhutan’s economy, underscoring the importance of investing in ways that uphold our “high-value, low-impact” policy. This approach is essential to ensuring that the influx of visitors does not compromise the very essence of what makes Bhutan unique.

To achieve these ambitious targets, providing top-end services and enriching the tourist experience are crucial. Tourists should leave Bhutan not only with memories of our magnificent dzongs and lhakhangs perched on serene hilltops but also with a deeper connection to our culture, people, and way of life. This calls for a concerted effort in service and product development.

Service excellence must be our hallmark. From the moment tourists arrive, they should be met with hospitality that is both warm and professional. Training programmes for those in the tourism sector should emphasise not only skills but also the importance of cultural sensitivity and environmental stewardship. Guides, hoteliers, and service providers are the ambassadors of our nation, and their role is pivotal in shaping the experiences of our guests.

Product development is equally critical. We must diversify the tourist experience beyond traditional attractions. This includes promoting adventure tourism, wellness retreats, and cultural immersion programmes that allow visitors to experience Bhutanese life firsthand. Initiatives like community-based tourism can also play a significant role, providing tourists with unique experiences while directly benefiting local communities.

More important, infrastructure improvements are necessary to support the expected increase in tourist numbers. This includes upgrading transportation networks, ensuring reliable internet connectivity, and maintaining clean and safe public spaces. Investments in sustainable tourism practices are also vital to preserve our natural and cultural heritage for future generations.

Marketing strategies should focus on highlighting Bhutan’s unique selling points. Our pristine environment, rich cultural heritage, and the Gross National Happiness philosophy are compelling narratives that resonate with global travellers seeking meaningful experiences.

The revitalisation of Bhutan’s tourism sector requires an all-round approach that balances growth with sustainability. By investing in service excellence and innovative product development, we can attract high-value tourists who will not only contribute to our economy but also become ambassadors of Bhutan, encouraging others to visit. 

Today we have the opportunity to show the best of Bhutan to the world, let us not put it to waste.