Economic growth in Bhutan, a country that famously measures its wellbeing by Gross National Happiness, slowed sharply last year to six percent as tourist numbers fell, the World Bank says.
It said the insular Himalayan kingdom, sandwiched between India, Nepal and China, saw a seven-million-dollar decline in tourism income in the 2008/2009 financial year from 39 million dollars the previous year.
No reason was given for the 18-percent change, but the travel industry was affected worldwide last year by the global financial crisis.
Western visitors to Bhutan must pay a minimum of 200 dollars a day for visa and government-approved travel agency fees, a deliberate policy to promote "high value" tourism.
When Jigme Singye Wangchuck became king in 1972 at the age of 16 he announced the priority of his monarchy was gross national happiness (GNH), rather than increasing the limited economic measure of GDP.
However growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008/2009 slowed to 6.0 percent from 11-14 percent the previous two years, the World Bank said in an economic outlook report for Bhutan published on Tuesday.
The Washington-based lender also estimated Bhutan, which held its first parliamentary elections two years ago, suffered losses of 67 million dollars due to an earthquake and cyclone last year.
The World Bank estimated Bhutan's GDP in 2008 at 1.3 billion dollars.
Source: AFP Asian Edition