BHUTAN is taking a balanced approach to sustain its growth momentum after experiencing rising arrivals in recent years. Overall arrivals hit a record 64,038 in 2011, a rise of 56.7 per cent from 40,873 the previous year.
“We are following the ‘limits to change’ model, which means we, as a country, will have to decide what extent of change we are willing to live with,” said Thuji Dorji Nadik, director of plans and programmes, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
The TCB is now more focused on yield than arrivals. Thuji said: “We need to improve service standards and delivery, because in order to charge more, you must deliver more.”
This strategy includes developing a variety of infrastructure, human resources and technological projects, such as the introduction of ATMs and point-of-sale machines to make it easier for tourists to spend.
The tourism development strategy also requires a balance of local business and foreign investment. Hotel operators in Bhutan must adhere to limits on room numbers – 70 per property in the capital and as low as 40 elsewhere in the country.
“The bigger chains are not interested because of the volumes involved. The volumes will not reach Koh Samui proportions, which deters (hotel investors) from coming in,” said Thuji. He added that there are currently three international hotel chains in the country, but tourism volume is so low that foreign interest is limited.
During the busiest month of October last year, four-star properties posted 74.4 per cent occupancy, which averaged out to 40 per cent for 2011.