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Despite tariff hike, tourism in Bhutan not affected

Despite the hike in the Daily Tariff for Tourist in Bhutan tourism business is on rise in the country.

Bhutan sellers at the recent PATA Travel Mart in Manila said they had registered a double-digit growth in visitor numbers since the beginning of the
year, and attributed this to heightened awareness of the destination and its catchy slogan, Happiness is a Place, introduced by Tourism Council of
Bhutan in March 2011.

In January, the daily tariff for tourist groups of three pax or more was raised from US$200 to US$250 a night during high season, and from US$180 to US
$200 a night during low season

Choki Dorji, managing director, Blue Poppy Tours & Treks Thimphu, said he had so far registered a 35 per cent year-on-year increase in arrival numbers for 2012. His main markets include the US, Japan and Germany, with groups spending an average of seven to 10 nights.

Laxmi Sherpa, general manager, Sacred Himalaya Travel Thimpu, observed double-digit growth this year from the US and China. She is now looking to tap
new markets such as South Korea, Japan and Singapore through participation at international travel trade fairs.She also pointed out that the tariff was
not particularly costly, taking into account its all-inclusive nature. “It includes accommodation in a twin-sharing three-star hotel, all meals, tours
with a licensed tourist guide, internal taxes and charges, transport and transfers. You are well taken care of,” she said.

Russell Oquist, president, MG Tour Company US, explained that the raised tariff had little impact on his clients, who are mostly from the middle- and
high-income brackets. “The destination appeals to the adventurous and for those looking for something beyond the ordinary,” he said.

However, Oquist said the challenge in selling Bhutan was the unavailability of direct flights from the US. His clients usually pick Bhutan as part of a
twin-destination holiday programme, leveraging onward connections to Paro from cities such as Kathmandu, Bangkok and New Delhi.

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