Bhutan achieves record-breaking tourism earnings


Bhutan recorded its record revenue from the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) last year, amounting to around USD 26 million.

In the same period, the country welcomed more than 103,000 tourists, exceeding the projected tourism arrival target.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) reported that 70 per cent of these visitors were from India, each contributing an SDF of 1,200 rupees (INR). The remaining 30 per cent consisted of international guests who paid the full SDF.

In 2018, SDF earnings stood at USD 24 million, followed by USD 25 million in 2019. However, due to the impact of the pandemic, 2020 saw a decrease to USD 3 million, followed by a gradual recovery in 2022 with earnings of USD 6.5 million.

DoT Director General Dorji Dhradhul, said that the trend this year is very promising and the outlook for 2024 is very good. He said that they anticipate a robust tourist season, particularly if the influx of visitors from China, India, and the broader Asian region increases as projected.

“We continue to focus on promoting Bhutan as a top tourism destination and raising awareness, working with the tourism industry to facilitate the ease of doing business, and making necessary improvements and interventions to ensure that all guests to Bhutan have a wonderful experience,” he said, adding that they are expanding our promotional efforts to new markets, while also capitalizing on the resurgence of the Asian tourism industry.

The top 10 source markets for Bhutan in 2023 included India, the USA, the UK, Singapore, China, Germany, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, and Canada. While tourism rebounded, new and existing markets such as China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Russia exhibited promising growth.

According to the department, the government aims to welcome 300,000 tourists by 2024, adopting a proactive stance.

The Chairman of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Kinley Gyeltshen said that they not only aim to increase visitor numbers but also to elevate the quality and sustainability of the travel experiences.

Similarly, the Chairman of Hotel and Restaurants Association of Bhutan (HRAB), Jigme Tshering said that 2024 is looking promising, and looking forward to higher occupancies and higher value bookings this year compared with last year.

“We are encouraging our members to be more proactive with their marketing efforts, to attend travel fairs, and to use online marketing,” he said.

January arrivals in Bhutan are also looking strong, with 4,414 guests arriving in Bhutan in January, almost double the number of guests who arrived in January 2023 (2,670 arrivals).

The top markets arriving in January 2024 were from India, the US, China, the UK, Brazil, Australia and Germany.

Despite the winter season, the Director General said that they have witnessed good arrivals from several major source markets this January, nearly matching the pre-pandemic numbers.

He said that conversations with numerous tourists revealed their surprise at how good Bhutan is as a winter destination, characterized by mostly sunny days and chilly evenings.

He urged tourism service providers to creatively promote Bhutan as a winter destination alongside existing itineraries and travel packages.

Dechen Dolkar


Asia News Network