Regional tourists to be levied charges

Regional tourists visiting the country will be levied charges, according to foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji at the Meet-The-Press session yesterday.

During the recent bilateral visit of foreign minister to India from November 17 to 23 this year, many Indian newspapers reported about Bhutan’ plan to levy charges on regional tourists.

The regional tourists include visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives.

“In the new tourism policy we have guidelines for management of regional tourism. The whole idea is to align it as a one tourism policy where we charge visitors visiting Bhutan,” said the foreign minister.

However, Lyonpo said that the amount to be charged and what all charges should be levied are still under discussion. All tourists will have to follow the same procedure.

Lyonpo said that they will discuss with the relevant stakeholders and get feedbacks from the industry.

“We will have continued discussion with the relevant stakeholders and finally it will be presented to the cabinet on December 30,” Lyonpo said, adding that the policy will be ready by end of this year.

Meanwhile, the arrival of regional tourist in 2018 recorded a growth of 10.37% over 2017, reaching 202,290 regional arrivals. 94.83% of total regional arrivals were from India, followed by arrivals from Bangladesh (5.17%) and Maldives (0.002%).

Currently, regional tourists do not have to pay the minimum daily charge of US$ 250 per day.

The Executive Director of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Sonam Dorji said that they have been proposing this regulation over the years.

“We feel that there should be one policy for all the tourists,” he said, adding that the policy was in line with their 2016 tourism review recommendations.

Sonam Dorji said that the ABTO is glad that there is now one policy for all the tourists.

He added that ABTO recommended charges in the form of Sustainable Development Fees (SDF), which could be lesser than that of the SDF US$ 65, which is being paid by international tourists daily.

According to him, they are also working on the recommendations for allowing tourists to bring their own vehicle in the country and if a toll fee could be charged for vehicles travelling in the country.

pic courtesy: google (Aah Bhutan Travels)

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu