Over-tourism a worry for Bhutan?

NEW DELHI, 27 November 2019: Bhutan tourism officials may introduce a daily travel expenditure rule for regional tourists and a sustainable tourism fee to slow tourism growth.

The Indian Express reported that the current exception that allows Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians to visit the country without having to comply with a strict daily spend requirement could be ditched.

All other nationalities have to show they are spending the minimum USD250 per person per day during peak season months, and USD200 during the rest of the year.

The low seasons run from December to February, when it is bitterly cold and again during the heavy monsoon rains June to August.

Now local media outlets in India report that might change as Bhutan struggles to control the influx of tourists that could endanger the country’s fragile Himalayan ecosystem.

The Indian Express warned that Indian tourists to Bhutan might soon be required to pay a ‘Sustainable Development Fee’ and a ‘permit processing fee’ that would likely make visiting the Himalayan nation more expensive.

The USD250 daily fee covers accommodation, transport within Bhutan, a tourist guide, food and non-alcoholic drinks, and entry fees.

The daily spend also covers a USD65 daily “tourism levy” or “sustainable development fee (SDF)” (previously a government “royalty”, and the fees for the tourist’s visa.

The minimum spend excludes the cost of airfares to Bhutan. There are other fees such as a USD40 charge for tourists travelling solo, and USD30 for each tourist in a group of two or more.

Up until now, Indians have been excluded from these fee requirements. They can travel visa-free to Bhutan and are not subject to the minimum daily cost of USD200 or USD250.

According to the Indian Express, the Tourism Council of Bhutan director-general Dorji Dhradhul confirmed there is a plan to introduce a minimal fee on regional tourists and revise the SDF of USD65 for international tourists.

He argued that “regional tourists” usually explored the country on their own without guides, so they were not aware of the do’s and don’ts when visiting Bhutan.

(Source Indian Express)