The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan plans to double gradually the number of tourists granted entry -- to 4,000 a year -- and this year will reduce the rates it charges tour operators by an average of about 13 percent.
There will be bigger cuts in some tour categories like trekking, which will fall by about 27 percent in low season (December through February and in June), Bhutan has announced.
The government of the tiny country bordered by India and China wants to privatize some sectors of the state-run tourist industry, starting with trekking, which is to be organized by three local companies. Individuals as well as groups will be allowed to visit Bhutan as tourists, although individual travelers will have to follow a prearranged itinerary.
Bhutan's plans were outlined in New York recently by Lyonpo Om Pradhan, minister of trade and industry. He said that most temples and monasteries, will be open to visitors, many for the first time, but he added that the religious sites were living institutions, not museums.
While visitors will be offered opportunities to witness Bhutanese culture and religion, the minister said, the government wants to ensure that the lives of the monks will not be disrupted.
Druk Air, the national airline and the only carrier operating in Bhutan, has increased service. (Druk Yul, the Bhutanese name of the country, means Land of the Dragon.)
Druk Air's British Aerospace 146-100 plane, which carries 80 passengers, operates two flights weekly from Bangkok and Dhaka, Bangladesh, two from New Delhi and Katmandu and one from Calcutta.
A brochure outlining tours can be had from a company that specializes in travel to the kingdom, Bhutan Travel, 120 E. 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10022; telephone (212) 838-6382 or (800) 950-9908.