Convertible currency earnings hit


Bhutan was set to have one of the best years in tourism after the Lonely Planet in October 2019 recognised Bhutan as the number one travel destination for 2020. What happened is just the opposite.

Last year in the first quarter, from January to March, 12,786 tourists had visited Bhutan. The number dropped by almost half. Only 6,624 tourists visited Bhutan in the first quarter of this year.

From January 15 to March 16, about 1,960 tourists cancelled their visa to visit Bhutan.

The year 2019 saw a total of 315,599 tourists visit Bhutan, which is a 15.14 percent increase compared to 2018.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to hit the country’s convertible currency reserve as the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) forecasts that Bhutan is unlikely to see arrivals until the next year.

In the first quarter of this year, tourism generated a gross receipt of USD 10.14 million (M), according to TCB reports. Last year, tourism generated a total gross receipt of USD 88.63M from the MDPR paying (international tourists) arrivals, a 3.77 percentage change as compared to 2018.

As per the annual tourism revenue growth rate, the gross receipt from the MDPR paying arrivals was estimated to hit almost USD 92 million in 2020. This means that with the closure of tourism,    the country will lose about USD 82M in convertible currency from tourism.

The government hopes that the country will receive more foreign assistance to make up for the loss of convertible currency from tourism.

An official from the prime minister’s office at a recent press briefing said that development partners had come forward to assure more assistance to help Bhutan cope with the situations created by the pandemic.

Officials from TCB recently presented the tourism situation report to the joint parliament committee on Covid-19 preparedness.

The TCB reported that the government has allocated a total of Nu 220.4M as the tourism stimulus package for training and gainful engagement of affected people from the sector.

According to TCB, a total of 2,512 people have confirmed their participation in various activities under the stimulus programme. If the number of candidates remains the same and all the allocated money is utilised, TCB will spend Nu 87,738 on each person on an average.

The amount allocated for engagement of affected people in infrastructure and product development is Nu 94.1 million. But only 62 people have confirmed their willingness to engage in infrastructure and product development.

A total of Nu 97 million has been allocated for the training and re-skilling programme, for which 1,412 have confirmed their participation. But the programme has been deferred due to social distance reasons.

According to TCB, travel will fundamentally change and the sector will not resume as it was before.

TCB estimates that the closure of tourism has affected the livelihoods of about 50,000 people in hotels, handicrafts, airlines and transport among other businesses.

The TCB hopes that arrivals will start from January next year. The TCB estimates that Bhutan in January next year will see 30 percent of the arrivals in January this year.

Thereafter, arrivals are estimated to increase by 10 percent monthly for the rest of the year, except for the peak months of March, April and September and October at 20 percent.

The joint parliamentary committee members acknowledged and appreciated that TCB’s efforts but felt that the current plans and progammes were not satisfactory.

The committee’s chair, Dorji Wangdi, said that some of the programmes being undertaken by TCB were not in keeping with the government’s standing statement of focusing on two things in tourism sector: skilling programmes and development of new tourist amenities.

He said that there was no regional distribution as all programmes were still concentrated in current top five tourist-rich dzongkhags.

“The current stimulus programmes are largely traditional and there are no innovative and long-term strategies and programmes. Expenses must be prudent and programmes sustainable,” he said.

He said that it was the right time to take the opportunity to focus on developing a standard operating procedure (SOP) for implementation of SDF as regional tourists would realistically be the first ones to step in.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

Related Posts

Ngultrum- The Bhutanese Currency but does Bhutanese address the...

Ngultrum is pegged at par with the Indian rupee. Ngultrum is the identity of the Bhutanese monetary system. But most...

Oct 23, 2020 16:00

Significance of the Stupa of two lovebirds across Lungtenzampa-...

According to the caretaker, many believe that couple who wishes to have children gets their wishes fulfilled if they...

Oct 17, 2020 17:32

Age of Information Technology in Bhutan

Information technology is evolving rapidly. Bhutan cannot escape the influence of Information Technology, rather Bhutan...

Oct 15, 2020 21:42

The Revolution of Bhutanese Architecture in decades.

Modernization threatens the sustainability of Bhutanese architecture. Modern materials are not eco-friendly. More energy...

Oct 04, 2020 11:25

The Heart Shaped Stone- Story to remember while you hike through...

Interesting Stories from the Trail

Sep 09, 2020 18:29

View from the Sky For Every Travellers Flying into Bhutan

Despite Boeing ranking Paro airport as 'one of the world's most difficult for takeoffs and landings, the views over the...

Aug 06, 2020 14:25



The Great Fourth King and Fifth King of Bhutan on Royal Tours amid the COVID-19 pandemic brought tears to many Bhutanese.

Many Bhutanese people eyes brimmed with tears. The heart was a knot of inexplicable emotions when they saw His Majesty the fourth King...

Oct 07, 2020 09:16

Australia supports Bhutan in its COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery

Extending support to Bhutan in its fight against COVID-19, the Australian Government has supplied medical equipment in response to the Royal...

Sep 22, 2020 09:39


Ngultrum- The Bhutanese Currency but does Bhutanese address the money Nu or ?

Ngultrum is pegged at par with the Indian rupee. Ngultrum is the identity of the Bhutanese monetary system. But most Bhutanese refer to the...

Oct 23, 2020 16:00

Significance of the Stupa of two lovebirds across Lungtenzampa- the Bridge of Prophecy

According to the caretaker, many believe that couple who wishes to have children gets their wishes fulfilled if they pray at this sacred...

Oct 17, 2020 17:32


Football clubs in Bhutan gearing up for Bhutan Premier League (BPL) 2020

Bhutan Premier League (BPL), the top national football tournament in Bhutan is set to commence on August 1.

Jul 24, 2020 14:33

Karma – Female Archer From Bhutan Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Quota

Karma has been specialising in Olympics-style archery since 2009.

Nov 30, 2019 13:18


Bhutan- The Kingdom of Peppers

Bhutan is a country with the highest per-capita consumption of chilli.

Sep 26, 2020 09:15

Are Local Vendors Earning More Money Than the Civil Servant?

A Farmer from Lango, Paro gave up farming to be vendor while office goers are switching into agriculture as the remedy to curb their...

Jul 27, 2020 19:15


Harvest Time in Bhutan- It is the happy time for peasants for the bountiful harvest

This time of the year, the lush green valleys and hills have turned into a mellow yellow field. Farmers are seen at their field to harvest...

Oct 26, 2020 12:52

Domestic Tourism to boost Local Economy in Bhutan

Although Bhutanese have not seen tourists for the last few months, locals are riding the bandwagon of being "tourists in one's own...

Oct 13, 2020 21:26


Food on Wheels- First of its kind in Bhutan

The World's Largest Fast Food Restaurant Chains doesn't exist in Bhutan.

Mar 04, 2020 09:39

Amazing Stories from the Eastern Part of Bhutan

You can't say you have visited the eastern part of Bhutan unless you have experienced the following bizarre things.

Mar 02, 2020 19:02

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!