Bhutan welcomes first group of tourists after more than two years
A group of 32 international tourists arrived in the country today. This is the first time the country is receiving tourists in a group since the country closed its doors to tourists in 2020. The shrinking tourism industry welcomed the arrival of tourists and the government’s decision to bring down the quarantine for international travellers to five days.
The excitement was mutual. As officials welcomed the tourists with ceremonial scarves, they absorbed the serene beauty the country has to offer. 36-year-old Hannah Wilcox, from the United States with her associates planned this trip for the last one year and finally, she is here.
“I am a little overwhelmed. It is so beautiful here. And just to fly in over the mountains is a very different experience. I am very happy to be here. Here we are going on retreat for the first couple of weeks and then we are going on a pilgrimage to the sites and honour the land,” she said.
“Last time I was here none of this was around, it was absolutely empty. The airport is very well facelifted especially the model of dzongs,” added Dimitri, also a tourist from the States.
Back in 2019, Bhutan was expecting a boom in the tourism industry after Lonely Planet, a travel guidebook publisher, declared Bhutan as the number one country to travel to in 2020. However, business went south when the pandemic crippled the tourism sector across the world. This is finally changing. The arrival of the tourists today is just the beginning.
“We have been planning since last year and for a few months, we have been hoping that our trip would work out and we weren’t sure of covid restrictions. But we got the good news couple of weeks ago that the trip was approved. And coming in, we came over the mountains and saw this beautiful kingdom and I was so excited,” said Liam Mcclintock, a tourist from the United States.
The tourism sector was one of the main income generators during the pre-covid times. In 2019, Bhutan saw 315,599 tourists generating a revenue of about USD 89 M. With the government slowly opening up, the tourism sector is set to bounce back from the hard times it endured.