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Bhutan welcomed 15,734 guests from October 01-29, 2023, representing an almost 10% increase over its forecast of 14,287 arrivals for the month. From September 23, 2022, to October 29, 2023, Bhutan received a total of 104,304 visitors. Meanwhile, the number of guests who visited Bhutan from January to October 29, 2023, stands at 83,407.

In October, the top source markets for Bhutan were India (9574 guests), the United States (1687 guests), the United Kingdom (609 guests), Germany (349 guests), Australia (281 guests), China (269 guests), Switzerland (231 guests), Singapore (227 guests) and Malaysia (193 guests). The Department of Immigration has confirmed that the data includes only guests entering Bhutan as tourists, and not those in any other category.

Out of the 104,304 total arrivals since September 23, 2022, 70,274 were Indian nationals, and 34,030 were other international guests (out of which, 11,515 paid the old SDF rate of USD 65, with 22,515 paying the new SDF rate of USD 200 and 100).  15,146 Indian guests applied for their permit before arriving in Bhutan, while 55,128 received the permit on arrival.

In terms of visitor arrivals, October 2023 ranked as the second-highest month this year, only surpassed by May, which saw 16,609 arrivals. The actual number of foreign guests in October reached 6,160, almost doubling the projected count. It was the most active month since the reopening for guests from countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Thailand, Netherlands, and Russia. Additionally, there has been a consistent rise in the number of visitors from China.

The total revenues for visa and SDF revenues from all guests are approximately USD 25 million since September last year. The SDF revenues fund important projects including free healthcare and education for all Bhutanese, infrastructure upgrades, environmental projects and more.

“October was a busy month in terms of guests arrivals, particularly guests from the US and Europe.   The trendline is positive and we believe that we will have a strong year ahead for tourism. Most of the international guest bookings for October were made before the SDF 100 revision took effect, underscoring the enduring allure of Bhutan as a 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.

Indian arrival numbers to Bhutan still remain flatter than expected. Airline prices and connectivity remain the key industry concerns.

Tourism data from a guest satisfaction survey during the past four months also shows that 84% of visitors to Bhutan are first-time visitors, and 42% of visitors stay in Bhutan for between five to seven nights. Nearly half of all visitors are aged between 33 to 49, and nearly a third of all visitors are aged between 50 to 65. DOT’s guest satisfaction survey started in July 2023 and currently has almost 700 responses. A full report with the results of the survey will be issued soon.

DOT forecasts that 98,000 guests will visit Bhutan between January to December 2023 and the arrival figures are on-track to meet the target.