International tourist arrivals almost stagnant in past three years

From 2017 till 2019, the figures of visitor arrival have remained almost the same

Despite various efforts put in by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and individual tour operators in the country over the past years, Bhutan has not seen the much-hoped surge in international tourists’ arrival going by the figures from 2017 to 2019.

Bhutan received 315,599 tourists in 2019, an increase of 15% over 2018. However, there has been a surge in regional tourists with 243,400 visitors in 2019.

However, in terms of international tourists, Bhutan saw 71,417 international tourists in 2017, 71,807 visitors in 2018, and 72,199 international tourists in 2019. In 2018, there was 202,290 regional tourist’s arrival and 183,287 in 2017.

International tourist arrivals in the last three years (2017-2019) saw a minimal increase, whereas the territorial traveler entries on (non Minimum Daily Package Rate – MDPR) saw a noteworthy increment, with more than 77 % of the share in 2019.

An official from TCB shared that in the past TCB invited prominent and relevant media from the key source markets that focus on high-end tourism such as wellness, trekking, and cultural tours to Bhutan who could then promote Bhutan through their broadcast channel and articles.

“Another was taking tourism partners, especially tour operators to popular international tourism events where they could directly promote Bhutan to an international audience and the international tour operators. Such participation in the events is important because our tour operators could directly make deals at the source, without having to route through a middleman which affects value for money and quality experience,” he added.

A recommendation is given to the National Taskforce for the 21st Century Economic Road Map by the TCB, meanwhile, outlined five reasons for the stagnation of international tourist arrivals in the country.

According to the TCB, 77% of the total visitors were regional tourists; swarming the major tourist’s destinations, making it no more elite.

“This supposed loss of exclusiveness could have made Bhutan unappealing to the prospective international tourists. A sudden increase in the number of regional tourists used little increase in the supply of airline seats and hotel rooms which could not be allocated to international tourists,” the TCB recommendation stated.

Another outlined reason was the carrying capacity of the aircraft. Bhutan having just two operational carriers and restricted associations the overall numbers of seats accessible is more or less capped.

From 2017 to 2019, diminish in the entry of visitors from major nations such as Japan, China, and the US was seen as another reason.

The need of promoting Bhutan as a visitor’s goal with a focus on the source was also recommended as it has been expressed that there is small data of Bhutan on the web for the visitors. A low advancement budget from the government is seen as another figure.

According to the TCB, many tourists have the wrong notion about MDPR and feel it is the government’s levy and visa fee only. MDPR is wrongly being interpreted as visa and SDF charges when the fact is MDPR is included for food, lodging, and guide, therefore perceiving Bhutan as an expensive destination to travel.

Visitor arrival and change in market segment trend


Chencho Dema from Thimphu