Introduction: Bhutan’s tourism industry began in 1974. It was introduced with the primary objective of generating revenue, especially foreign exchange; publicising the country’s unique culture and traditions to the outside world, and to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development1. Since then the number of tourists visiting Bhutan has increased from just 287 in 1974 to over 2,850 in 1992 and over 7,000 in 1999.
By the late 1980’s tourism contributed over US$2 million in revenues to the royal government. In 1989, the royal government raised the tourist tariff.
That year only 1,480 tourists visited Bhutan but the government still earned US$1.95 million through tourism. By 1992 tourist revenues contributed as much as US$3.3 million and accounted for as much as 15-20% of the total of Bhutan’s exported goods and services.
The royal government has always been aware that an unrestricted flow of tourists can have negative impacts on Bhutan’s pristine environment and its rich and unique culture. The government,herefore, adopted a policy of “high value-low volume” tourism, controlling the type and quantity of tourism right from the start. Until 1991 the Bhutan Tourism Corporation (BTC), a quasi-autonomous and self-financing body, implemented the government’s tourism policy. All tourists, up to that time came as guests of BTC, which in turn operated the tour organisation, transport services and nearly all the hotels and accommodation facilities.
The government privatised tourism in October 1991 to encourage increased private sector participation in the tourism sector. Today there are more than 75 licensed tour operators in the country.
Writer Tandi Dorji is Communication officer, National Environment Commission, Thimphu
This uploaded is written by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.