Paro Tshechu, which always attracted large crowds of tourists from all over the world saw a low turnout this year.
The dramatic decrease in the number of tourists this season is a sign that the global meltdown is affecting Bhutan. The tour operators in Bhutan also feel that it is a result of the global economic recession and the recent political instability in Bangkok, Thailand.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said: “If at all, the second round effect of global recession appears in Bhutan, the likely sectors to be affected are tourism and the steel sectors.”
Bhutan Yodsel Tours and Treks confirmed that the number of tourists visiting Bhutan during the Paro Tshechu was a lot less as compared to the previous years.
According to the managing director of Blue Poppy Tours and Treks, the Bhutanese tourism depends on the market forces in other countries, which have been hit by the recent global recession. “The global economic recession in other countries might have affected the in-flow of tourist, in the country, this year,” he said.
Tsewang Rigzin, the proprietor of Sakten Tours and Treks, feels that the number of tourists who visited Bhutan during the Paro Tshechu has gone down this year by about 10-15 percent.
In 2008, approximately 21,000 tourists entered the country which was an increase of 10.3% from the previous year. ”The total figure this year is yet to be decided with the year having just commenced but it looks bad,” said an experienced guide who preferred anonymity.
The number of tourists visiting the country has been on the rise every year. Visiting the country basically to witness colourful festivals in the Dzongs and lhakhangs, trek across mountain passes and to enjoy the panoramic mountain views on Druk Air flights, Bhutan has always been regarded as amongst the top tourist destinations.
Be it trekking on some of the highest mountain routes or the kayaking down the Mochu, tourists have always regarded Bhutan as an abode of gods and the home to the immortals.
On the other hand, with decreasing number of tourists visiting the country, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) might just be able to achieve its principle of ‘high value, low volume, and low impact.’
Bhutan was affirmed as one of the top 10 finalists for the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2005. TCB has recently received a certificate from the Wanderlust Travel magazine again declaring Bhutan the finalist “Top Country 2009” for the Wanderlust travel awards.