Bhutan enjoys major inbound growth

The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan recorded dramatic visitor arrivals
growth of 15% over the first seven months of 2007, hot on the heels of
27% growth in 2006.“While the volume is small (17,342 in 2006), the Kingdom of 640,000
people is a relative newcomer to international tourism as we know it,”
said PATA Director-Strategic Intelligence Centre Mr John Koldowski.
“Bhutan opened its doors to change, modernisation and the world at
large in 1961; and to tourism in 1974, when King Jigme Singye
Wangchuck was crowned.”

Bhutan’s tourism industry was operated by the Royal Government of
Bhutan in 1974, before it became corporatised in 1983, and then
privatised in 1991. The Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Department of
Tourism regulates the industry, and adheres to a strict policy of low
volume, high value.

Last year, half of Bhutan’s international arrivals came from the top
three source markets: the USA (28.9%), the UK (11.2%) and Japan
(10.5%). “These origin markets are likely to dominate for some time
yet,” said Mr Koldowski. “But the word is out, and so far this year,
we have seen 10 source markets double their volumes.”

For example, Thailand supplied 430 arrivals, January-July this year,
up from 112 arrivals in the same period in 2006. However, from August
to December 2006 there were 664 Thai trips, compared to 96 in the
whole 2005.

This extraordinary jump followed the Royal visit of Bhutan’s 26 year
old Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck; dubbed “Prince
Charming” by the Thai media. On December 14, after the abdication of
his father, the Prince was crowned the fifth Dragon King of Bhutan.