Spotlight on the East and South

Spotlight on the East and South

While works to increase tourist visits in southern and eastern Bhutan have begun, the tourism department did not provide complete details on the comprehensive action plan

Under the directive of the new government, the Department of Tourism (DoT) is working on a comprehensive action plan to attract tourists in the southern and eastern parts of Bhutan. The action plan will be developed by a committee of stakeholders.

“With the new government in place, there is a comprehensive plan to enhance the development of tourist visits in the southern and eastern parts of the country,” said Carissa Nimah, Chief Marketing Officer.

Carrisa said that the department will still continue to do what they have been doing till now and that the department will continue to work in line with the strategies that the government is going to implement.

“We are implementing targeted promotional measures to incentivize tour operators to bring tourists to dzongkhags in the east and south that traditionally receive fewer visitors. Moreover, we also aim to develop promotional packages and campaigns specifically designed to highlight the unique cultural and natural attractions of these regions,” Carrisa said.

In addition, the department is also planning to mandate Dzongkhag Administrations to actively participate in the development of tourism packages.”

Carrisa said that with such strategies, it will not only encourage the development of tourism packages, but will also promote tourism as a key component of the economic development initiatives at the dzongkhag level. “As we do this, we plan to develop and implement specific strategies to promote tourism in dzongkhags that historically receive fewer tourists.”

The chief marketing officer shared that by adopting such strategies, the department aims to create conducive environment for the growth of tourism in the southern and eastern parts of the country, thereby unlocking the economic potential and preserving the cultural and environmental heritage of these regions.

For instance, the department is committed to undertake various activities to showcase Bhutan and attract visitors including digital marketing campaigns where the department runs targeted digital marketing campaigns to raise awareness about Bhutan as a tourist destination in key source markets.

“These campaigns leverage various online channels to reach a wide audience,” Carrisa said.

Similarly, activities such as advertising initiatives are undertaken to promote Bhutan in key source markets. These campaigns utilize different mediums such as print, online, social media and radio advertisements to create visibility and generate interest.

Other campaigns, such as brand campaigns like “Bhutan Believe” is also introduced to establish a unique and compelling identity for Bhutan as a destination. These campaigns aim to highlight the country’s cultural richness, natural beauty, and spiritual essence.

The department also organizes events and road shows in key markets to engage with travel industry professionals, tour operators, and potential visitors. These activities provide opportunities for networking, showcasing Bhutan’s offerings, and building partnerships.

In addition, the department actively promotes the diverse festivals, events, and activities taking place in Bhutan. “This helps create a vibrant image of the country and attracts travelers who are interested in experiencing its cultural celebrations and unique experiences,” Carrisa said.

The department also employs sales representatives in key source markets who work to promote Bhutan as a destination and collaborate with travel agents and tour operators in various markets and also focuses on enhancing the quality and distribution of photography and videography content.

“By showcasing the hidden stories and captivating aspects of Bhutan, we aim to entice and captivate potential visitors,” Carrisa said, adding that the department has joined exclusive, high-end travel networks like Virtuoso, XO, and Serendipians (Traveller Made) which will allows tapping into luxury travel segments and connecting with affluent travelers seeking unique experiences.

Monthly webinars with global travel agents are also conducted by the department to increase and attract tourist in the country.

The department actively supports and plans familiarization trips, press trips and influencer trips to enable industry professionals, journalists, and influencers to experience Bhutan firsthand and promote it to their respective audiences.

According to Carrisa, the department regularly issues press releases (several per month) to share updates and news about Bhutan’s tourism industry.

“We engage in public relations efforts to build relationships with global press and media outlets, facilitating coverage and positive exposure,” Carrisa said, adding that the department received almost 2,500 pieces of tourism-related news since tourism reopened in September 2022, with a combined readership of around 3.5 billion.  Since September 2022, the department conducted 130 media interviews and hosted more than 100 global journalists.

Meanwhile, the total number of visitors Bhutan received in the month of December 2023 was 9,691 with total Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) revenue collected was around USD 26 million (M), marking the highest earnings from the SDF in Bhutan’s history and exceeding revenues collected before the pandemic.

In 2023, Bhutan welcomed more than 103,000 visitors, exceeding its projected tourism arrival target. Approximately 70% of these visitors were from India, each paying a SDF of INR 1,200 per day. The remaining 30% comprised international guests paying the full SDF.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu