Bhutan opened its door to the outside world with the formulation of Tourism Regulation in 1971 to raise its revenue and to promote the country’s unique culture and traditions. The actual arrival of tourists started only in 1974 with 287 visitors. Since then the number of tourists has been increasing every year and in 2013 with record high inbound arrivals of 116,209 as per Tourism Council records.
Despite being open to foreigners, the government is acutely aware of the environmental impact tourists can have on Bhutan’s unique and virtually unspoiled landscape and culture. The Royal Government of Bhutan therefore, adheres strongly to a policy of high value, low impact/volume tourism which serves the purpose of creating an image of exclusivity and high- yield for Bhutan.
Until 1991, then known as Bhutan Tourism Corporation (BTC), a quasi-autonomous and self-financing body, implemented the government’s tourism policy. Tourism was however, privatized in 1991, facilitating private sector investment and activity. As a result, today over 1300 licensed tourist companies operate in the country.
The Director of the Tourism Council of Bhutan the monitoring authority of the tourism sector writes “Bhutan tourism industry continued to grow in 2013 with a +10.25% increase over the previous year contributing significantly to GDP receipts, hard currency reserves, and employment generation in the country. The Royal Government continues to accord high priority to the industry as a major engine of economic growth in the 11th FYP period. The stable performance of the industry in the last five years indicate that tourism is poised to grow in the expected trajectory to meet the aspired targets by the end of 2018″ which is an encouraging statement for the sector.
Tourism sector today is one of the highest revenue earners for the nation.