Hotels in east plan to propose deferment of new SDF

The proposal for soft loans and the deferment of the new SDF of USD 200 for eastern hotels are on the agenda for now, according to the Eastern Hotels Association of Bhutan

The Eastern Hotels Association of Bhutan (EHAB), though an unregistered organization, has been conducting several meetings following the new tourism policy.

Accordingly, the Association has decided to request the government to defer the new SDF of USD 200 per tourist per night for some time for the eastern region and keep the old SDF of USD 65.

According to the president of the EHAB, Kuenga, who is also the owner of the Druk Dejong Hotel in Trashigang, there are not many tourists choosing to visit the eastern region prior to the reform of the tourism policy. Now that the SDF has been increased from USD 65 to USD 200, there will not be any tourists visiting the eastern region anymore.

With the east-west highway still under construction and Yonphula’s domestic airport not being fully operational because of weather, room occupancy in hotels in the east has been a concern for hotels for several years, according to the president.

Another resort owner in Trashigang, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, “The government has to step up now as we now have no other options. While we wholeheartedly support the government’s decision to enact the new tourism act, they should also give us time to at least revive.”

After having exhausted all other options, he said they have also asked the government and the financial institutions through the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) to provide them with soft loans, especially in order to promote and market the country to the northeast regional tourists.

The president of BCCI, Tandin Wangchuk said, “The hotels in the east requested approval of soft loans from the financial institutions to establish northeast regional tourism.”

According to the president, the request for soft loans for hotels in the central and eastern regions is one of the issues that the BCCI discussed with the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance, and all the financial institutions following the announcement from the Royal Monetary Measures (RMA) about the phase IV monetary measures, for which the government is yet to respond by next week

Another issue, according to the hotel owners in the east, is that they must repay the loans now that the RMA has begun the phase IV monetary measures.

They say it will be difficult for them to even pay the capital amount.

“We would need loan deferment for a while. Some hotel owners are on the verge of handing over their hotels to the banks, while some still hope of reviving. Therefore to recover, we might need some time and financial assistance from the banks,” said a hotel owner.

The owners of hotels in the east also maintained that they intend to seek the government and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to grant them autonomy so they could look for tourists and survive.

“We want to bring tourists from the northeast and diversify and promote in order for us to sustain,” said the owners of hotels in the east.

Earlier, the TCB announced that travelers who made their reservations before June 20 will be allowed to pay the earlier SDF of USD 65.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu