Bhutan

Thai operators welcome Bhutan’s tourism policy

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Rigzin Wangchuck

Many travel agencies in Thailand sought clarification on the new tourism strategy and questioned the increase in the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) at a tourism promotion event in Bangkok.

Bhutan’s ambassador to Thailand, Kinzang Dorji, clarified that the new tourism policy and strategy will provide tourists with greater flexibility in planning and service choices, replacing group tours under the earlier Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) system.

Tour operators in Thailand have been organizing and marketing Bhutan to domestic and foreign tourists for many years.

With the passage of the Tourism Tax Act 2022 by Parliament in June this year, the government abolished the MDPR, which included a US$65 royalty and imposed a SDF of US$200 per tourist per day.

Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said: “The system will also enable tourists to interact directly with their service providers and pay for their services accordingly, thereby providing new opportunities for service providers to offer innovative products and programmes.” “Overall This will enhance the travel experience of tourists and the service level of the industry.”

The event was organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bhutan in Bangkok following the official reopening of borders on September 23, with more than 100 staff from Thailand Tourism, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), the Pacific Participating in the event are the Asia Travel Association (PATA) and airlines. “Perhaps, this event is one of the largest gatherings of travel agencies in Bangkok that Bhutan has ever held,” an embassy official said.

The ambassador stated that tourism has been and will continue to be an important economic sector in Bhutan. He also said the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has given us time to look at the way Bhutan has implemented its “high value, low volume” tourism policy and find ways to best transform the sector.

Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said that Bhutan has been recognized as a “global hotspot, a negative carbon country, a pristine environment with a forest coverage rate of more than 70%, rich cultural heritage, unique ethnic characteristics, beautiful snow-capped mountains, blue skies, and clear rivers. , a beautiful lake, and based on Gross National Happiness (GNH) governance, Lonely Planet named it the number one tourist destination in 2020.

“However, there are also undeniable issues and challenges such as; congestion and over-consumption, which place undue pressure on our resources and ecosystems, seriously affecting our sustainability, which is at the center of all our development agendas weight,” he said. “The reforms we are undertaking today are therefore conscious and deliberate considerations for the future of Bhutan and future generations.”

The ambassador said that Thailand is an important source market for Bhutan’s tourism industry and plays a pivotal role in Bhutan’s inbound tourism. Bhutan is looking forward to the arrival of Thai tourists.

Before the pandemic, the average number of Thai tourists visiting Bhutan was around 4,000 per year. “But most tourists visiting Bhutan pass through or come from Thailand,” Ambassador Kinzang Dorji told Kuensel.

He also unveiled the new brand Bhutan, which was officially unveiled by Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering in Thimphu on 22 September.

The ambassador emphasized that tourism is a strategic asset of the country that can protect and strengthen Bhutan’s social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions, protecting the country’s cultural and natural assets.

Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said Thai travel agencies are very positive as long as Bhutan can meet their expectations in terms of providing services and facilities.

Meanwhile, Bhutan received 120 international tourists when it reopened its borders on September 23, including 34 foreigners from Bangkok.

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