Indian tour operators find monument fees high

The new monument fees and the SDF cannot be calculated only in terms of economic value, according to the media spokesperson of TCB, Damcho Rinzin

Many Indian tour operators are finding the recently revised fees for monuments and sacred sites for all tourists beginning from July 15 this year high.

They were expecting that the monument fees were taken care of by the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF), which was revised recently for tourists visiting Bhutan.

As per the revised entry fees done by the National Monument Committee for eight existing monuments and sacred sites for all tourists beginning from 15 July, foreign visitors visiting Paro Taktsang will have to pay Nu 2,000, and Nu 1,000 to visit Taschichho Dzong, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Lhakhang, Kyichu Lhakhang, Rinpung Dzong, Punakha Dzong, and Chimi Lhakhang.

However, children below 18 years of age will get a 50% concession, and children aged five years and below will be exempted from the entry fees.

Talking to Business Bhutan, Avijit Saha from Green Heaven Holidays in Madarihat, said that the monument charges for Indian tourists would be too high.

He said that the SDF of Nu 1,200 per head per day is also unwelcomed among Indian tourists.

“I also believe that the growth of the Indian tourists in Bhutan in the next five years would decline due to the high charges fixed,” he said, adding that if consideration can be made to lowering the fees.

The manager of Insurer Relationship, Bangalore Arun Karunakaran said that the high monument fees and the new SDF will hugely impact tourism in Bhutan.

He said, “I, as a normal Indian citizen, was so comfortable traveling to Bhutan with my family and friends. Now I have to think twice to travel to such a wonderful nation.”

He said that considering the cordial relationship between the two countries, Bhutan should reconsider the decision.

The director of D’ Insignia Holidays in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, said that the company was selling packages of tours to Bhutan in the Indian market since 2013.

He said that the imposition of increased entry fees for sightseeing and the SDF will make the packages costly.

“This might affect the group and Family Individual Tour (FIT) bookings for the upcoming season and it will take time to adopt among the tourists and agents,” he added.

The director of Bon Voyagers in West Bengal, Sayan Chakraborty said that with the new situation, it is very hard to convince tourists to avail tour packages in Bhutan.

Before the pandemic, he said that Bhutan was one of the pocket-friendly and tourism-friendly options for Indian tourists.

However, he said that after applying the SDF along with high increased entrance fees, Indian tourists have lost interest to tour Bhutan. “After applying all the fees, tourists find cheaper options in other foreign countries.”

Meanwhile, the new revision and reforms of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) are a part of the transformation to upgrade infrastructure and services and bring professionalism to the sector, according to the officials.

The new monument fees and the SDF cannot be calculated only in terms of economic value, according to the media spokesperson of TCB, Damcho Rinzin.

He said the new monument fees are for improving services and facilities.

“It is a part of gearing towards protecting the sanctity of our land and giving travel experience to the tourists,” he said, adding that the existing entry fees of Nu 1,000 to Taktsang and Nu 500 to the other seven sites were not sustainable.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu