Bhutan welcomes back tourists after COVID-19 with honey, turmeric and SIM cards

Bhutan welcomes back tourists after COVID-19 with honey, turmeric and SIM cards

KATHMANDU: Twenty-three foreign visitors landed in Bhutan on Friday (Sep 23), the first to turn up as the Himalayan empire reopened its edges after more than two years following the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials seeking to tourism to help revive the local economy.

Wedged between China and India, the country known for its natural beauty and historic Buddhist culture, very first opened to rich tourists in mid 1970s. In March 2020 it shut the borders to visitors – a major source of income – after detecting its first case of COVID-19.

The constitutional monarchy of fewer than eight hundred, 000 people offers reported just over 61, 000 infections and only 21 deaths, however the US$3 billion economic climate contracted in the last two fiscal years, pushing more people directly into poverty.

“Tourism for us is more than revenue, ” stated Dorji Dhradhul, movie director general of the Travel and leisure Council of Bhutan (TCB), after getting the first visitors on the country’s only international airport at Paro, near the capital city of Thimphu.

He stated the tiny nation was keen to become “very much a part of the whole world”.

“We feel via tourism we can accomplish that… take advantage of their support and goodwill, ” he told Reuters from Bhutan, talking about the international neighborhood.

Each customer who arrived on the first flight from Kathmandu in neighbouring Nepal was offered small packs associated with organic honey, herbal tea, Bhutanese turmeric as well as a local SIM card many in a tote bag as a gift, the authorities said.

In July, Bhutan raised its Sustainable Development Fee to US$200 per visitor per night from the US$65 it got charged for three decades saying it was willing to welcome a lot more tourists who can spend money.

Officials said the charges would be spent on tasks like planting trees, upskilling tourism employees, maintaining hiking trails, reducing reliance upon fossil fuels and electrifying transportation vehicles to offset tourists’ carbon footprints.

Regarding 315, 600 travelers visited in 2019, up 15. 1 per cent from the year before, with visitors contributing about US$84 million on average every year to the economy for that three years before the outbreak hit, TCB data showed.