Dechen Dolkar 

The number of tourists may have declined, but revenue generated from tourists is comparatively higher going by the number of tourists Bhutan received this month.

More than 6,390 tourists visited this month, as of March 28, according to figures from the Department of Tourism. Between the reopening of the international border in September last year and March 28, around 32,600 tourists visited the country.

Of that,  6,095 tourists paid the  Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 200 per night and 7,343 visited at the old SDF rate. More than half or 19,162 visitors were Indians paying SDF of Nu 1,200 a night.

In 2019, the country received around 25,000 tourists in the month of March alone. Despite the drop in tourist arrivals, the revenue earned from the SDF is comparatively high as compared to pre-pandemic.

In the six months, government  earned around USD 9.89M from the SDF and USD 537,520 in visa fees. Similarly, SDF from Indian tourists amounted to around Nu 100M.

In 2019, USD 23.49M was collected from SDF.

Meanwhile, the Department of Immigration (DoI) approved 2,214 tourist visas from March 25 to April 10 this year. Of that, 441 are Americans, 145 are Germans, 90 are Singaporeans, and 88 are Chinese. The DoI also approved 443 Indian tourist visas.

In addition, 738 additional tourist visas have been confirmed between March 25 to April 10 paying the old SDF rate.

With the tshechu season on, hotels are getting busier. Paro Tshechu is from April 2 to 6. Most of the hoteliers in Paro said occupancy rate was zero in January and February. They said that now with the tourist season picking up and festivals coming, hotels also have some tourists coming in.

“As compared to the previous two months, March is a little better with some rooms occupied,” a hotelier said.

Some of the hotel rooms are fully occupied for the Paro Tshechu festival.

Airline bookings

It was learnt that the occupancy rate for Drukair flights has increased to around 75 percent for the Paro Tshechu. Drukair has also increased the daily flight schedule and frequency for April compared to March.

According to Drukair, the incoming load looks good and on average, they have half the total seats sold for April. “However, it is not at par with pre-pandemic bookings.

However, the Bhutan Airlines Chief Executive officer, Pema Nadik said that their occupancy rate is very low.

He said that usually by now, for the Paro Tshechu, the airline scheduled additional flights. However, this year, they did not have to do it. “The occupancy for the daily flight schedule itself is very low.”