Travel to Bhutan – A Survey

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Travel to Bhutan and you could fit this data. Travellers visiting Bhutan are mostly aged 45 and above, with the most dominant age group being over 60 years, and most were well educated, according to a survey carried out last year by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. In 2011, 64,028 international travellers visited Bhutan.

Heard about Bhutan from:

  • Friends and family: 28%
  • Internet: 13%
  • Magazines: 11%
  • TV: 11%
  • Travel guide books: 7%
Final thoughts about Bhutan:
  • Beautiful: 73%
  • Friendly: 71%
  • Spiritual and religious: 59%

The survey, which was carried out to gain an in-depth “snapshot” of international high-end visitors’ travel behaviour, motivation, pattern and preference, showed that more than 80 percent of travellers had at least a bachelor’s degree. Of these, 35 percent had a master’s and 11 percent had doctorate qualifications.

‘Word-of-mouth’ was cited as the primary source of information on how travellers had come to learn about Bhutan. More than 28 percent of travellers said that friends and family had told them about Bhutan. This was followed by the internet (13%), magazines (11%), TV (11%), and travel guidebooks (7%).

Travellers rated Bhutan’s unique culture and natural beauty as the major attractions. The ‘undiscovered’ nature of the country and Buddhism were also major draw cards.

The most popular activities, while in Bhutan, were visiting Thimphu, Paro, and visiting Dzongs and temples. Taktsang monastery was the most visited temple by travellers.

The survey points out that this may have resulted in over-crowding of the monastery, and that measures, such as the introduction of a premium, may have to be introduced to control visits to popular sites.

Some of the keywords the travellers used to describe Bhutan upon leaving were beautiful (73%), friendly (71%), and spiritual/religious (59%).

While more than 66 percent of travellers indicated that Bhutan represented ‘good value for money’, the report points out that the figure has slightly decreased from 2010. About 24 percent neither agreed or disagreed, while about 10 percent disagreed that Bhutan represented good value for money. Excluding daily tariff and airfares, majority of travellers (47%) said they had spent less than USD 200 while in Bhutan. About 34 percent spent between USD 200 – 500, followed by about 11 percent between USD 500 – 1,000.

Majority of travellers (88%) were satisfied with their tour guides. On accommodation, which includes quality of facilities and services of staff at a hotel, about 47 percent indicated ‘good’, and 25 percent ‘very good’. About 24 percent responded ‘average’ and a little more than 4 percent ‘not good’ and ‘poor’.

In terms of satisfaction level with food and restaurants, almost 48 percent reported ‘good’, followed by 32 percent saying ‘average’, and about 6 percent stating ‘poor’.
While the majority of visitors came to Bhutan for the first time, the findings also show that 2011 had a significantly higher number of repeat visitors. Almost 23 percent of travellers had visited Bhutan thrice, and seven percent, had made one visit.

A little more than half of the travellers stayed for less than eight nights. On average, visitors stayed for seven nights.

Sixty-eight percent of travellers indicated that Bhutan had been their only destination, which the report points out, reveals that most visitors are generally affluent, as they are willing to spend more money on long-haul international flights. Others indicated that they had combined their trip with Nepal (40%) and India (30%).

Of the total travellers, about 28 percent expressed dissatisfaction with at least one or more aspects of their trip to Bhutan, and provided suggestions. The majority complained of poor road conditions. Narrow, pot-holed, lack of retaining walls to prevent landslides, lack of proper drainage, were some of the complaints received by the Tourism Council. This was followed by unmanaged garbage, with visitors complaining of open drains, doma spit, and littered trekking trails.

Other complaints received were on the lack of diversity of food and restaurants, followed by hotel standards, and lack of public toilets and restrooms along highways. A need for regulating pricing of souvenirs was also rated higher this year.

The report points out that complaints related to over-crowding of dogs and lack of credit card and ATM facilities had declined considerably in 2011.

The findings show a high occurrence of undercutting in 2011. Almost 19 percent of travellers acknowledged to having paid less than the prescribed government daily tariffs. The report points out that the practice leads to unsatisfied customers, and that speculations prevail that tour operators, who undercut, provide sub-standard services and facilities to their clients.

Over 68 percent of travellers said they would visit Bhutan again in the near future. More than 80 percent of some nationalities, like the Singaporeans, Japanese, Chinese, and Thais, intended to return to Bhutan. Among the Europeans, more than 70 percent of Swiss and Italians expressed a desire to return. About 63 percent of Americans and Canadians responded that they would like to visit Bhutan again.

The 2011 survey sample size was increased to 8,607, as opposed to 2,658 in 2010, in a move to ensure more reliable findings. The survey lasted more than five months, and was carried out during different times of the year to obtain data pertaining to specific visitation times.

Visitor arrivals to Bhutan numbered at 64,028 in 2011. Around 57 percent of this figure represented international visitors.

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