Bhutan Will Triple Tourist Fee When it Reopens September 23

The Tourism Council of Bhutan announced that the country will be reopening its borders to international visitors starting September 23 with a greater focus on the sustainability of the sector. In addition, Bhutan will be more than tripling its current tourist fees from $65 per night up to $200 per night.

The tourism sector will be undergoing a revamp, which will focus on three key areas: Infrastructure and services, the travel experiences of tourists, and the sector’s environmental impact.

COVID-19 has allowed us to reset—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,” said Dr. Tandi Dorji, foreign minister of Bhutan and chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, in a press statement. “In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.”

Among the slew of changes are revised standards for service providers, including hotels, guides, tour operators and drivers, which 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 programs, where necessary, to boost service quality.

Amid the intensifying threat of climate change, Bhutan will also be stepping up its efforts to keep the country carbon-negative and a green destination for tourists. The nation is keenly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as frequent rain and floods. As such, the country will be raising the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of $65 per person per night for tourists to $200, which will go towards activities that promote carbon-neutral tourism and building a more sustainable tourism sector; this includes offsetting the carbon footprint of tourists and upskilling workers in the sector.

At the same time, the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) will be removed. The rate refers to the minimum sum paid by all tourists for an all-inclusive package tour to Bhutan. The MDPR has in the past often limited the tourist experience, as travelers could only choose packaged tours provided by tour operators. Going forward, tourists will have the flexibility to engage service providers directly and pay for their services accordingly.

The fee changes came into effect on June 20, 2022.

The revamp of the tourism sector comes amid a widespread transformation across the country, from the civil service to the financial sector. The changes are geared towards developing Bhutan’s human capital by equipping the population with more proficient skills, knowledge and experiences.

“Our strategy for the revamp of 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,” added Dorji Dhradhul, director general, Tourism Council of Bhutan. “Tourism is a strategic and valuable national asset, one that does not only impact those working in the sector but all Bhutanese. Ensuring its sustainability is vital to safeguarding future generations.”

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