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International Tourist arrivals 2012 - January to July
Tourist arrivals as of July 31, 2012

Among international arrivals Japanese were the dominant visitors in the first seven months of this year according to records maintained by the secretariat of the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

As of July this year, 3,923 Japanese tourists had arrived in the country.Within the same period 2,561 American tourists had visited.

The council secretariat and tour operators are confident that this year Japanese tourists would exceed American tourists as the number one visitor.

This increase is attributed to the royal couple's visit to Japan last year, followed by the prime minister's visit.

"The royal visit generated enormous publicity for the country," the secretariat's media spokesperson, Damcho Rinzin, said. "In the same year, we also carried out promotion and marketing activities in Japan."

Last year, 3,943 Japanese tourists visited the country against 6,226 tourists from America, the two highest arrivals.

Etho Metho tour and trek's director, Sangay Wangchuk, said they were expecting a doubling in Japanese arrivals this year. "We already have had more than 300 Japanese tourists, while last year we hosted less than 100."

Tourist arrivals from China also saw a record increase last year with 2,896, making it the third biggest group visiting Bhutan, and surpassing major markets like UK and Germany. Until July this year, tourist arrivals from China stood at 1,847.

Thais are the next dominant group visiting Bhutan, 1,825 as of July this year, followed by UK, Germany, Australia, France, Singapore, and Taiwan. (See graph)

The increase in arrivals from neighbouring Asian countries is seen as an advantage, especially keeping in mind the initiative to make Bhutan a year-round tourist destination, which started looking up since last year.

"Most Asians tend to travel in summer to escape the heat, so we have to design tour packages accordingly," a tour operator said. "Over the years, we've witnessed an increase from Asia, which is a positive sign."

Meanwhile, 32,662 regional tourists visited the country until July this year, while last year's arrival stood at 53,223.Visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives are referred to as regional tourists.The regional tourists are exempt from the minimum daily tariff and do not require visas.

A majority of the regional tourists consists of visitors from India.

International Tourist arrivals 2012

In 2012105,414 international and regional tourists visited Bhutan.

In 2012, for the first time, it was Japanese tourists that topped the market. Japanese tourists surpassing American tourists in 2012 was mainly attributed to Their Majesties' visit to Japan in 2011, which generated "enormous" publicity.

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, July 2012


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