Bhutan has been very successful to become a safe country in the Indian sub-continent having the lowest cases of corona (24) with 6 recovered cases and 0 deaths. The first case in the country was reported on March 6, 2020. An American visitor was tested positive during his visit to Bhutan via India and he was immediately shifted to quarantine with other 90 individuals including his partner, driver, and who were directly in contact with the American visitors. Since this first case, Bhutan took a very important step restricting the entry of foreign tourists for some weeks. The first positive victim was evacuated to Baltimore in the US and has been recovered now. The 24 positive cases all flew from different countries to Bhutan; 2 of them were US citizens (the 1st and 2nd cases) while 22 were students and individuals of Bhutan who returned to the country after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Since the first positive case of COVID-19, Bhutan took various preventive steps. As it is a landlocked country, it sealed off every border that is connected with other neighboring countries. Bhutan shares international gateways with Thailand, India, Singapore, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Bhutan also restricted all national and international flights to and from Bhutan as the preventive step against the COVID-19. All the confirmed as well as suspected cases are admitted in quarantine at Thimpu, the capital city of Bhutan.
Also, most of the hotels agreed to provide their properties for quarantine services, and most of the Bhutanese people helped with the crops and food for those in need. This mutual understanding between the royal family and the Bhutanese people played a vital role to secure the country from the outbreak of COVID-19. As the borders sealed off, people have started to rely on the local product (agriculture and production) which is another good part of the Bhutanese people.
In addition, the royal family is celebrating the birth of the new prince of Bhutan during this pandemic. On March 19, the queen gave birth to their second prince in Lingkana Palace, Thimpu.
Due to this pandemic of COVID-19, most of the countries have completely banned tourists and visitors willing to explore different parts of the world. COVID-19 has affected 213 countries worldwide with a complete degradation in the economy and health of most countries. More than 342k people have died with 5.31 million confirmed cases; Bhutan is the only country with the lowest active cases and 0 deaths.
Bhutan has always been one of the beautiful countries of South Asia with numerous tourists visiting the country for its natural as well as historical attractions. Due to this COVID-19, Bhutan has experienced a hindrance in welcoming visitors to their country. But the tourism council of Bhutan has been utilizing this pandemic to make tourism easier and more accessible. As every visitor have to book their trip with the help of a local tour operator and pay in advance, most of the tourist complains or experience frustration while making plans. Focusing on the visitor’s experience and the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism council is working on tourist online booking procedures and online payment methods which can be a very good alternative for past experience and methods.
Also, according to the Tourism Director General Dorji Dhradhul, Bhutan is supposed to continue its tourism and is ready to welcome tourists inside the country once the international borders are opened.
IS IT SAFE TO RESTART TOURISM IN BHUTAN?
Tourism in Bhutan was allowed since the 1970s with a policy of high value and low volume tourism; Bhutan does not allow mass tourism.
Restarting tourism in Bhutan can be much easier to apply than any other country or travel destination. The effective effort of His Majesty the King and support in the effort by the Bhutanese people are the main reason for Bhutan being a blessed one till now.
Currently, there are no foreign visitors inside the country. The country has sealed all its borders and international flight. There is a very limited number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and all of them are kept well isolated.
Most importantly, Bhutan focuses on the high value and low volume tourism policy. Bhutan has been in the list of most experienced travelers throughout the world due to its pristine natural attractions and unique culture. With limited visas provided by the country for the visitors, the country experiences limited tourists which avoid mass tourism like other countries. Almost in every tour in Bhutan, a guide is compulsory which makes tourism more systematic. Bhutan shares limited international gateways with Thailand, India, Singapore, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Bhutan is planning to restart its tourism with an introduction of Bhutan as a well being destination. With a keen focus and ease on the physical distance in Bhutan, the country is planning several campaigns on its main market target. As people love to travel and due to this pandemic, most people are stuck inside their home, Bhutan plans to restart tourism and has joined the worldwide campaign of #dreamnowtravellater. Besides this, Bhutan is also working on online payments and booking services focusing the visitor’s ease to travel Bhutan.
In addition, Bhutan is planning to improve and use potential rapid test kits and contact tracing apps for the COVID-19 confirmations. Certain preventive measures will be added by Bhutan as set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the prevention of COVID-19.
WHAT CAN TOURIST EXPECT IN BHUTAN?
Tourism in Bhutan is an overwhelming experience. New visitors to Bhutan will be charmed with the natural sceneries and unique cultures of the Bhutanese people. The surrounding mountains and natural sceneries can offer visitors new inspiration as well. Glancing at the unique culture of Bhutan and interacting with the locals can be a great experience. People around Bhutan are very wise and friendly with huge respect for foreign travelers.
In addition, Bhutan can offer a sensation spiritual awakening as well. The ancient monasteries, gumbos, monks, nuns, and the sweet smell of incense in the air with mantra chanting can simply make the travelers, a sense of spiritual awakening. The respect and well being of people (the tour operator, driver, guides, and the locals) make your visit to Bhutan more memorable and worthy. There is more about the wonderful Bhutan which cannot be expressed in words; experience is worthy. Bhutan offers the best tour packages with great experiences.
Also, Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world.
In conclusion, the world has to learn a lot of things from Bhutan; not only in the tourism perspective but also in the measures of COVID-19 pandemic. This country has been very blessed and the only reason is the understanding and cooperation between the government and the support of the citizens of the country. Also, we hope Bhutan will be the first successful country to allow foreign tourists inside the country after this pandemic. As people need refreshment and relaxation during this pandemic (focusing the physical distance), we wish Bhutan to restart its tourism with preventive measures and proper management.