Domestic tourism draws mixed response

For day trip pilgrimages, they charge Nu 500-Nu 1,500 and Nu 7,500 per person to central Bhutan

Even as domestic tourism was picking up in the country prior to the second national lockdown, some of the trips were cancelled affecting the tourism products like pilgrimages while trekking picked up.

At this time of the year, most people go for pilgrimage to holy places. Before the pandemic people usually went to Nepal and Bodhgaya but post-pandemic, many travel agents had been organizing domestic tours. However, even these have been affected by the pandemic.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) had also launched domestic tourism products recently. Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Yarden Tours and Trek, Karma Wangdi said that due to the pandemic he is now organizing domestic tourism within the country.

He said that he uses his vehicles for transportation and the charges are minimal.

He organizes trips to the central and eastern region and day trips to holy places in the country.

Bhutan Yarden Tours and Trek’s domestic packages include trips to eastern Bhutan at Nu 10,900 per person for five days and four nights with 15 people in one group and full board in budget hotels with double sharing rooms.

For day trip pilgrimages, they charge Nu 500-Nu 1,500 and Nu 7,500 per person to central Bhutan.

However, due to the second lockdown, they had to cancel three groups.

The CEO said they were supposed to travel to central and eastern Bhutan.

“Now no one is booking for the trip,” He said.

Similarly, Holy Bhutan Tours and Trek also had to cancel a group which was supposed to travel to eastern Bhutan for 13 days.

Similarly, travel vlogger Denkar’s Gateway said that she was supposed to trek to Jumolhari for the New Year with her friends.

“I was supposed to celebrate New Year in the mountains, but it got cancelled due to lockdown,” she said.

However, Phub Tshering who organizes trekking with Explore with Phub Tshering fees that the second lockdown has not affected domestic tourism for trekking because it is the off-season for trekking.

The trekking season is from June to mid-October.

He started the trekking business after the pandemic hit the tourism sector.  He is organizing treks to mountains such as Drake Phamtsho, Rongtse Nye, Jumolhari, Dagala and Nubtshonpata.

“It is a blessing in disguise,” he said adding that domestic tourism has benefited international tourists except in earning foreign currency.

He mentioned that it has benefited in terms of employment to guides, kitchen crew and potter and pony.

He said that he started trekking from July last year and has organized trips for more than 15 groups comprising 360 people.

Similarly, local guide Kencho Dorji from Haa said that after the pandemic he has been engaged in domestic tourism.

“It is good business for us and it has benefited local communities as well,” he said.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu