After closing its doors to international tourists for two and a half years during the Covid pandemic, Bhutan has reopened its borders today.
The reopening has been accompanied by a revised tourist tax called the Sustainable Development Fee.
Bhutan increased its contribution to sustainable development to $200 per visitor per night from the $65 it had charged foreign tourists over the past three decades.
Indians were not charged anything before the pandemic started but the rules now require them to pay an amount of Rs 1200. However, the revised fee for Indian tourists was never implemented.
In March 2020, Bhutan closed its borders to visitors – a major source of income – after the discovery of the first case of COVID-19.
The Himalayan kingdom of less than 800,000 people has reported just over 61,000 infections and just 21 deaths, but the economy has suffered in the past two years, pushing up poverty.
“The Government of Bhutan has re-strategized its ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism policy to ensure the sustainable use of tourism resources and create a conducive environment for a vibrant, non-discriminatory, inclusive and high-quality tourism industry in Bhutan,” said Jigme Thinley Namgyal, Bhutan’s Consul General to The AU Times.
Sandwiched between India and China and famous for measuring gross national happiness, Bhutan hopes to welcome more tourists who can spend money.
“Tourism is a national asset and we are also trying to remain carbon neutral – that has its own costs. We are developing our infrastructure to make our tourism sustainable. This is the main reason why we are levying this tax,” added the Consul General ready. .