<strong>PM stands firm on Tourism Levy Act, rejecting calls for amendments</strong>

PM stands firm on Tourism Levy Act, rejecting calls for amendments

“While it is not the time to revise or amend the Act, we should provide some time and make necessary efforts before considering such a step.” PM

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu.

During Question Hour today in the Parliament, the Prime Minister (PM) said that it is not yet the appropriate time to consider amending or revisiting the Tourism Levy Act of 2022. The Act, which introduced an increased Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) from USD 65 to USD 200, has faced criticism from people who argue that it led to decline in tourist arrivals in Bhutan.

The answer from the PM was in reply to question from the National Assembly (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Ugyen Wangdi from Drametse Ngatsang Constituency, Monggar, who emphasized the importance of tourism as a significant source of foreign currency, and called for a revision of the act.

“The Tourism Levy Act, with its increased SDF of USD 200 per day, has caused inconvenience within the tourism sector and has failed to achieve the intended objectives,” stated the MP, stressing the need to revisit and amend the legislation.

In response, the PM clarified that the government had not altered the SDF to USD 200 entirely. He explained, “While certain modifications and adjustments were made to the Act, these changes do not imply a complete overhaul of the legislation.” The recent adjustments include offering discounts or exemptions to visitors staying in the country for a specified number of days.

“For instance, we have implemented discounts for guests staying for four nights and have made similar changes primarily to promote trekking,” the PM elaborated. He expressed concerns that charging USD 200 for additional trekking days of two to four days was deemed excessively expensive, leading the government to make necessary adjustments within the framework of the act without reducing the SDF.

Furthermore, the PM noted that while the increased SDF may be perceived as a contributing factor to the decline in tourist numbers, it should not be solely blamed. He pointed out that many countries’ tourism sectors are still recovering from the impacts of the global pandemic.

“Bhutan reopened its borders just last year, and since then, approximately 50,000 visitors have arrived, with most of them being subjected to the new SDF,” the PM said.

Acknowledging the discontent among stakeholders in the tourism sector, the PM assured that the government is actively engaged in ongoing discussions with industry stakeholders to find solutions and explore new ideas. He emphasized that it is not the time to revise or amend the act and that some time is required before considering such a step.

“The government continues to monitor the situation closely and remains committed to finding ways to support and revitalize the tourism sector while ensuring the sustainability of Bhutan’s unique cultural and natural heritage,” the PM said.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu