Chencho Dema

If the Punakha Dromchoe is the harbinger of the festive season in the country, the number of tourists at the festival is a good indication of tourist arrivals even as those in the business hope for increased arrivals.   

According to records maintained by the dzongkhag administration 1,106 tourists, including 28 children came to Punakha with the Punakha Dromchoe and tshechu being the main attraction.

Last year when the sustainable development fee was USD 200 per day per tourists, only 708 tourists, including six children visited the dzongkhag during the festive period.

The five-day Punakha dromche is one of the biggest and most significant festivals in the country, witnessed by thousands of people from February 16-21.

The reduction in the SDF to USD 100 per tourist, many say could have been the reason behind the increased arrivals.

On the first day of the dromche, there were only a handful of tourists. Tourists Kuensel talked to said that while some of them specifically planned their trip to coincide with the festival, others happened to be there by coincidence. However, the number increased gradually.

Punakha residents said that they have seen more tourists this year. Local businesses are also optimistic about an increase in tourist numbers following Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s  directive to boost tourist arrivals.

The next big festival is the five-day-day Paro tshechu from March 21.  Those in the tourism and allied sectors are hoping for a successful tourist season this year.  Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism is actively developing action plans aimed at achieving an annual arrival of 300,000 tourists.

Cheki Dorji, owner of Yelha Bhutan Tours said that he has a substantial number of bookings for the season, totaling more than 500, all high-end tourists.

He credited the increased tourist arrivals to the reduction of the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and the upcoming festival seasons in the country. However, he also noted that despite it being the peak season for tourist influx, the current numbers are not as promising as in previous years.

“In the past, tourists typically arrived in large groups, but there has been a shift in trend towards smaller group sizes. Additionally, the duration of trips has shortened by 50% compared to previous years,” he added.