BHUTAN, 22 July 2022: Travel costs to Bhutan will include a hefty fee increase to enter the landlocked mountain kingdom starting 23 September.
Bhutan’s tourism council confirmed it would raise the compulsory Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for tourists from USD65 per person per night to USD200. The media statement justified the massive hike, saying the new fee would fund “activities promoting carbon-neutral tourism while building a more sustainable tourism sector.”
It includes paying for measures to offset the carbon footprint of tourists and upskilling workers in the sector.
Indian tourists will continue to pay the previously stipulated fee of INR1,200 (USD16), but it is up for review and possibly an increase later this year. Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians used to be exempt from the daily fee requirements due to reciprocity agreements between governments. However, that changed in July 2020.
At the same time, the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) will be removed. The rate refers to the minimum sum all tourists pay for an all-inclusive package tour to Bhutan.
The MDPR has often limited the tourist experience in the past, as travellers could only choose packaged tours provided by tour operators. Effective 23 September, tourists can engage service providers directly without any minimum price requirement.
In its media statement, the Tourism Council of Bhutan said the tourism sector would undergo a revamp, focusing on three key areas; infrastructure and services, the travel experience and the environmental impact.
“Covid-19 has allowed us to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated so that it not only benefits Bhutan economically but socially as well while keeping carbon footprints low. In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens,” said Foreign Minister of Bhutan and Chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan Tandi Dorji.
Revised standards for service providers, including hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers, are among the slew of changes. They will soon be subjected to a more robust certification process before they can engage tourists. Employees will be required to participate in skilling and reskilling programmes, where necessary, to boost service quality.
“Our strategy for revamping the tourism sector brings us back to our roots of ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism, where we meet the needs of tourists while protecting our people, culture, values, and environment. Tourism is a strategic and valuable national asset that impacts not only those working in the sector but also all Bhutanese. Ensuring its sustainability is vital to safeguarding future generations,” said the Tourism Council of Bhutan director general Dorji Dhradhul.