DOT says SDF incentives have garnered positive responses

About USD 23,377,000 generated since September last year

DOT forecasts that 98,000 guests will visit Bhutan between January to December 2023

Between 23rd September, 2022 till 1st October, 2023, 89,326 tourists visited Bhutan. From January 2023 to September 2023, 67673 tourists visited Bhutan. From the 89,326, 61,162 were Indian nationals, and 28,164 were other international guests.  From the international guests, 10,844 have paid the old SDF rate, with 17,320 paying the new SDF rate.  13,573 Indian guests applied for their permit before arriving in Bhutan, while 47,589 received the permit on arrival.

Similarly, the visa fees and SDF revenues collected from non-Indian guests was approximately USD 1,126,560 and USD 18,560,384 respectively, while the SDF revenues collected from Indian guests are approximately about Nu 306,947,209.  

“This brings the total revenues for all visa and SDF revenues to be approximately USD 23,377,000 since September last year. The SDF revenues fund important projects including free healthcare and education for all Bhutanese, infrastructure upgrades, environmental projects and more,” according to the department of tourism (DoT).

The department added that, compared to its prediction of 6,788 visitors for the month, Bhutan had 9,559 visitors in September, a 34% increase. As a result, 89,326 visitors visited Bhutan from September 23, 2022 to October 1, 2023, compared to 67,673 visitors from January to September of that same year.

Meanwhile, in September, the top source markets for Bhutan were India, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Indonesia, Australia and Japan.

“September witnessed a strong influx of visitors, particularly during the Thimphu Tshechu. We are also encouraged to see resurgence in visitors from both India and China. Most of the international guest bookings for September were made before the SDF 100 revision took effect, underscoring the enduring allure of our destination. We anticipate good visitor arrival numbers over the next few months, allowing time for the new tourism incentives to be marketed and sold,” remarked Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of the Department of Tourism.

According to the department, Indian arrival numbers to Bhutan have not been as strong as expected in recent months, despite extensive sales and marketing outreach over the past year by DOT, Bhutanese Tour Operators (TOs), hotels, and other tourism industry stakeholders.

“After speaking with several prominent Indian travel agents and TOs, airline prices and routes remains the key concerns while several partners also reported that all Himalayan destinations were impacted heavily between June to August 2023 due to the unusually heavy monsoon and flash floods in some locations,” the department stated.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu