Dechen Dolkar

The Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) promised to remove the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for Indian tourists in all border towns and open up tourist entry and exit from all border gates. 

Speaking at the party’s campaign in Phuentsholing constituency, yesterday, the Party President Pema Chewang, said the party will examine the SDF and provide an exemption or concessional levy rate on the applicable SDF. Currently, the SDF is waived for only 24 hours in all border towns. 

Recognizing the tourism sector’s vital role in bringing in continuous and substantial foreign currency, he said that there was a need to reinstate its prominence within the economy. Tourism remains a crucial source of employment in Bhutan, providing diverse business and job opportunities.

In addition to promising to promote tourism as a holistic industry and increase its contribution to the economy, the President pledged to conduct a thorough analysis of the amendments to the Tourism Levy Act 2022 and Tourism Rules and Regulation 2022 in consultation with all stakeholders on a priority basis.

To alleviate congestion at terminal gates, the president committed to opening different entry and exit gates for labourers, tourists, and Bhutanese nationals. The party also promised to streamline the CPMS process for vehicles at the Phuntsholing gate, replacing the current manual system with an automatic one to reduce waiting times.

Furthermore, the President pledged to expedite export procedures and systems, making them swift and hassle-free. 

The party pledged to promote and diversify tourism products, including agro-tourism, geo-tourism, MICE, regional and cultural/food festivals, sports, medical/wellness/spiritual/Vajrayana tourism, student exchange programs, hot air ballooning, ropeways, nature-based activities, river rafting, fishing, film-making and biking.

The president committed to removing the SDF for MICE and student exchange, consultancies, businesses, and promotional purposes. The party will also introduce preferential SDF rates for tourists from SAARC countries in consultation with the Department of Tourism.

In an effort to promote tourism across all dzongkhags, the BTP pledged to develop dzongkhag-specific products and encourage community-based and domestic tourism. 

Additionally, the party pledged to explore the introduction of additional international airlines, facilitate seamless international payment gateways, and improve the visa processing system in partnership with stakeholders. The party also pledged to enhance the functionality of existing domestic airports with frequent flights.

According to a party’s spokesperson, it was important to create a vibrant economy by creating more jobs and income opportunities to achieve accelerated economic growth rather than injecting stimulus money into the economy which will ultimately translate to more imports and debt burden.