All set for busier tourism in Bhutan
Over 28,000 US dollar paying tourists and 38,000 regional tourists visited Bhutan before August 2013.Spring and autumn mark the best time for tourism because of the variety of festivals and good weather for hiking, trekking and bird watching. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan is comparatively higher during these seasons. This year, before August, Bhutan saw 28,103 international or US dollar paying tourists and 38,202 regional tourists from neighboring countries. The total number of tourists that visited Bhutan before August was 66,305, according to the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Regional tourists are exempt from paying minimum daily tariff and do not require visa. A route permit is all that is needed for a regional tourist to visit Bhutan. Every year, a majority of the regional tourists is from India.
October and November are going to be the busier months with tour guides, vehicles and hotels, all occupied, according to President of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO). He mentioned, unlike in the past, the tourism industry has experienced less issues with hotel bookings, tour guides and transportation.
“Better planning among tourism stakeholders is the main reason for efficient tourism this year,” he said, adding the industry also looked forward to the launching of the first private air service, Tashi Air, in October.
Aty Janson, 65, an international tourist from Holland, first came to Bhutan 19 years ago. Since then she visited the country twice.
“So many developments have taken place but it’s still a beautiful country with beautiful people around,” she said. “I would like to come here every year but it’s an expensive destination.”
Aty Janson and many other visitors find it convenient to travel to Bhutan because most Bhutanese are able to communicate in English.
At this time of the year, tour operator, hoteliers, guides, and handicraft shops do brisk business. Even the national airline, Drukair deploys additional flights to accommodate the increase in passengers during the peak season, every year.
Although there are about 1,800 registered guides, only about half of them are operational. Shortage of guides and vehicles is a challenge during the peak season.
A majority of the hotels in Thimphu and Paro saw an occupancy of about 60 to 70 percent this peak season.
Hotel Druk in Thimphu witnessed an occupancy of about 65 percent in September with tourists and corporate clients.
The hotel’s general manager Dilu Giri said for them lean season occupancy also picked up over the years along with the improvement in corporate clients.
“In October, we’re expecting about 70 percent occupancy,” he said.
Similarly, most hotels remained packed for October, the busiest month of the fall tourist season.
The average stay of international tourists last year, going by the tourism monitor, was about a week.
Tourism council records show there are enough hotels in the country although they were not distributed equally in all regions.
As of last year, there were 123 tourism council accredited hotels and resorts with a capacity of 2,749 rooms, or 5,464 beds every night and 163,290 beds available in a month.
Tourist arrival, last year, stood at 105,414 with 53,504 international, or Dollar paying tourists and 51,910 regional ones.
In 2011, the arrival was 100, 833, of which 47,610 were Dollar paying tourists and 53,333 regional tourists.
The tourism monitor also revealed that total earnings from tourism, including official and business ones amounted to USD 211.5M in 2012.
By the end of the 11th five year plan, tourism council will work towards meeting its goal of bringing in 200,000 tourists.