Resumption of Flights to Gelephu and Yonphula Opens Up New Opportunities

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Drukair’s flights to Gelephu and Yonphula look set to resume by Dec 2017. Projected to fly thrice a week, these two domestic airports were upgraded with a US$6.9 million grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Drukair’s flights to Gelephu and Yonphula look set to resume by Dec 2017. Projected to fly thrice a week, these two domestic airports were upgraded with a US$6.9 million grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Gelephu and Yonphula

Nestled in the Sarpang dzongkhag (district), the town of Gelephu is a strategic place for development because of its proximity to India and linkage to central Bhutan. The southern region is known for its scenic plains, especially the Royal Manas National Park and neighbouring Zhemgang district.

The Yonphula airport is located near Trashigang town. It is in Bhutan’s easternmost dzongkhag. Famed for the Trashigang Dzong and exotic bazaar, it is also an ideal base for tourists venturing into the surrounding villages and mountains.

Bhutan’s landscape

A landlocked country, Bhutan does not have any seaports, trains or inland waterways transportation. With a sparse population of about 700,000 people, Bhutan’s mountainous landscapes pose challenges in connecting communities living in the low lush valleys and high upland areas. Travel by land is arduously long and landslides can pose as threats in the country’s narrow, winding mountain roads.

Airports open up new opportunities

Travelling from Paro to Yonphula by road takes around 12 hours but a flight is only about 30 minutes. Once the flights resume, it will certainly boost tourism, spur economic growth and development which will benefit the locals as well.

The Bhutanese Government has decided to provide Drukair with a subsidy of Nu 0.30 million per flight. In addition to the subsidy, the national carrier will also be provided with Nu 7.6 million as a one-time additional cost to cover the expenditure that would be required to establish offices in Gelephu and Yonphula. 

According to ADB’s projected increased air traffic and tourism in Bhutan, total air passenger traffic could grow to about 491,200 passengers annually by 2020, with about 12% using the new domestic services. By 2030, the number of passengers is forecast to hit 915,100 annually, with with domestic passengers accounting for 17%.

Since this enchanting kingdom opened its doors to the world in the 1980s, Bhutan’s air transport sector has maintained a clean safety record, with zero fatalities. The Government of Bhutan aims to keep it this way while constantly trying to find ways for improvement.

 

Written by Zann Huizhen Huang for the Bhutan Times.


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