Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bhutan and the non-existent tourist limit

too sunny at the pass

I am definitely not an expert on Bhutan as I have spent just two weeks there [update: now four months]. But I do consider myself an expert on organizing a trip to Bhutan since I researched and planned for about two years prior to my short trip.

During all this planning and research, I discovered that there is a lot of misinformation out there about entering Bhutan as a tourist. Some interested visitors are completely unaware of the all-inclusive pre-booked tour system which is firmly in place. On the other hand, there is another misunderstanding which could negatively affect the Bhutanese tourism industry over time. All over the web, I read incorrect statements about an annual cut-off number for tourists allowed to enter Bhutan. This is completely false: there are no such limits in place.

I wrote a short article for Business Bhutan newspaper which further discusses this topic. It was reprinted here (I can't explain the enormous photo of me...).

In summary, there is no countable limit to the number of travellers who are 'allowed into' Bhutan each year. The number of people who visit is naturally curbed by the cost and the relative remoteness of the destination. If you are willing to pay the fee and travel the distance, your tour operator will do the rest to bring you into the country.  Repeat: there is no VIP special preference list or annual cut-off.

Since my blog stats indicate quite a few people checking for Bhutan travel tips, and because I promised to help quash the myth in that Business Bhutan article, I am using this space to dispel some of the confusion.

UPDATE: More info about exactly how many tourists reach Bhutan is posted here.

BONUS: On this World Cup final day, can I interest you in something that combines Bhutan and football? 'The Other Final' is a documentary filmed in 2002 about a match between Bhutan and Montserrat which were the two lowest ranked nations in FIFA at that time. The movie is posted on YouTube in eight parts: here is the first!

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