From hosting just 14 foreign visitors in 1974 to welcoming 100,000 tourists in 2023, Bhutan has transformed from the land before time into a globally admired and aspirational destination. This year, Bhutan’s tourism industry will celebrate its golden jubilee. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the kingdom will organize a series of celebrations and festive events both within Bhutan and internationally. These events will reflect on Bhutan’s remarkable journey from its early days to its promising future as a global tourist destination.

The first group of tourists to Bhutan, comprising eight Americans, five Spaniards, and one Argentinian, embarked on a challenging journey by road in 1974, as no airlines were operational at the time. Drawn by the unique charm of the Himalayan kingdom, hundreds more visitors followed in subsequent years. However, it wasn’t until 1983, with the launch of Bhutan’s national airline, Drukair, that tourism truly flourished, making travel to and from Bhutan significantly more accessible.

Over the years, Bhutan has steadily welcomed an increasing number of visitors, peaking at around 320,000 guests in 2019. As the only country in the world to implement a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for all visitors, Bhutan charges USD 100 per adult, per night. The SDF funds various initiatives, including preserving the country’s pristine environment, maintaining its cultural heritage, providing free healthcare and education for all Bhutanese, and supporting sustainable development projects that benefit local communities.

Paro Taktsang, a sacred Vajrayana Buddhist site, is perched on the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan. Photo courtesy of Bhutan Tourism.

“We are immensely proud to celebrate 50 years of tourism in Bhutan. This milestone is a celebration of what has been achieved since Bhutan opened its doors to the world, establishing itself as a unique, transformative, and sustainable destination,” said H.E. Tshering Tobgay, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bhutan.

“As we honour the past five decades, we also look forward to a future where sustainable tourism continues to enrich our nation and connect us with the world. Join us to celebrate this important milestone.”

To commemorate the golden jubilee of tourism, the Department of Tourism, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and the private sector, will host a series of engaging activities throughout the campaign period, including:

– Kickoff Event: A blessing ceremony at Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Dordenma statue) in Thimphu on 2 June 2024, to formally launch the celebration.

– Tourism Awards: Bhutan’s first-ever tourism awards in August, celebrating excellence and innovation in the country’s tourism sector.

– TedX Talk: Featuring Bhutanese speakers discussing tourism through the years, sustainability, and future projects.

– Jewellery Collection & Fashion Show: Showcasing Bhutanese-inspired craftsmanship and design over the past fifty years.

– Global Embassy Events: Hosting events at Bhutanese embassies worldwide, inviting media and travel trade to learn about Bhutan’s past and future tourism.

– Dzongkhag Visits: Collaborating with districts (Dzongkhags) to share their unique tourism stories from the past 50 years.

– Preserving Memories: Creating content that tells the stories of Bhutan’s tourism history, featuring images, videos, experiences, and memories for use across all marketing channels. This includes a new brand film, a printed magazine, a coffee table book, a mini-documentary, and posters.

– Industry Collaboration: Launching new itineraries, introducing a loyalty programme, and working with the tourism industry to integrate the 50-year celebration into the guest experience, among other projects.

Local Bhutanese dressed in traditional costumes celebrate a festive tradition against the backdrop of the Himalayan range. Photo courtesy of Bhutan Tourism.

“Our journey from welcoming the first tourists in 1974 to becoming a globally admired and aspirational destination is remarkable. This celebration is a tribute to all guests who have visited us and everyone who has contributed to our tourism sector. We are excited to showcase Bhutan’s heritage and vision for the future to the global community,” said Namgyal Dorji, the Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE).

Bhutan continues to enchant visitors with its breathtaking natural beauty, rich and immersive culture, strong spiritual offerings, and excellent guest experience. Equally captivating is the warm welcome and genuine hospitality of the Bhutanese people. As the only country that incorporates happiness as a development philosophy and one of the three carbon-negative nations in the world, Bhutan offers a unique and enriching experience for every traveller.

Phimai  National Museum


Phimai National Museum reopens with a spectacular showcase

Nestled 325 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, the Phimai National Museum has recently unveiled an impressive refurbishment, marking its soft reopening to the public. The museum’s revitalisation includes updated exhibition techniques and presentation styles aimed at enhancing visitor engagement and attracting cultural heritage enthusiasts.

>> Read more

 Planning Your Visit to Bhutan

Applying for a visa (or permit) to Bhutan is straightforward. All visitors must secure a visa and permit before travelling to Bhutan, except tourists from India, who can obtain a permit on arrival, and those from the Maldives and Bangladesh, who can also receive a visa on arrival. Visitors can apply online for a visa or permit or through a Bhutanese tour operator or hotel. The processing time is typically around five days.

All guests must pay Bhutan’s Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 100 per person per night (with concessionary rates for children) and a non-refundable, one-time visa application fee of USD 40. Indian visitors are required to pay an SDF of Nu/INR 1,200 per person per night. The SDF supports essential cultural, environmental, health, and educational projects across Bhutan. More information is available at: [](