Bhutan has said the disturbed security situation in neighbouring India has severely affected its fledgling tourism industry.
Bhutan's Trade and Industry Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba told the ongoing session of the National Assembly or parliament in Thimpu that tourists were scared to visit some parts of the kingdom because of trouble in the neighbouring Indian state of Assam.
"The security situation in the east had eased after the militants were flushed out of the country, but tourists still felt insecure to visit the east because of the frequent security turmoil in Assam," the minister was quoted as saying by the government-run newspaper Kuensel.
Hundreds of Indian separatists from Assam had set up bases in Bhutan for close to a decade before the Himalayan kingdom in 2003 launched a massive military crackdown and demolished the rebel camps.
Assam is home to more than half-a-dozen separatist groups with demands ranging from secession to autonomy. The state is frequently rocked by violence - the latest wave of rebel bombings earlier June killed eight people and wounded nearly 100.
The state shares a 266 km unfenced border with Bhutan.
"Constant security problems in Assam were seen as one of the main causes that choked the growth of tourism in the east," the minister said.
Bhutan's Home and Cultural Affairs minister Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley told Parliament that the government was trying to ensure safety of the tourists visiting the eastern region, famous for its exotic handloom products and some of the kingdom's ancient Buddhist religious sites.
"Most of the tourists visiting Bhutan were from Japan, America and other European countries where their governments discouraged their citizens from visiting risky areas. A small incident could affect our country's entire tourism industry," Thinley said.
Bhutan in 2005 received 13,643 tourists - a 48 per cent jump compared to 2004.
Tourism is one of the major revenue earners for Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
In 2005, the country earned $18.5 million from the tourism sector and is targeting some 15,000 tourists by the end of 2006.