Dechen Dolkar 

The Department of Tourism (DoT) penalised nine non-certified hotels with monetary fines ranging from Nu 10,000 to over Nu 300,000 for providing services to tourists.

The department in collaboration with the Department of Revenue and Customs (DRC), Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), and Regional Offices of Economic Affairs (RoEAs) conducted random monitoring in Phuentsholing, Paro and Thimphu from October 25 to November 4.

As per the new tourism system, it is mandatory for certified tourism service providers to be validated by the DoT to provide services to tourists.  This measure was taken to validate the readiness of tourism service providers in preparation for the reopening of tourism on 23rd September 2022.

The department has carried out the validation of tourist hotels and homestays across the country. As of November 2022, 174 tourist hotels and 105 homestays across the country were validated and approved to host tourists.

Officials from the department said that the fine ranged between Nu 10,000 and over Nu 300,000 depending on the size of the groups (tourists). Fines were collected as per the Tourism Rules and Regulations (TRR) 2022, which states that service providers without a valid licence, certification, or registration would be imposed a fine amounting to Nu 50,000 per service.    

A DoT official said that the department issued a series of notifications on the department’s website on July 26, September 9, and October 3, 2022, informing the service providers that non-validated and non-certified tourist accommodations will not be allowed to provide services to guests.

This was followed by the readiness assessment in different phases. The third phase is underway.

“Despite this, some hotels have not adhered to the department’s requirement,” the official said.

Fifteen tour companies were found to have used the services of such accommodation providers.

The department also penalised 15 tour operators for arranging accommodation for guests at non-validated and non-certified hotels. The fine amount ranges from Nu 10,000 to Nu 100,000.

The rules and regulations state that failure to arrange accommodation in the tourism-certified accommodation or seek necessary approval would be liable for a fine of Nu 10,000 per person per night. The service provider shall be liable to pay the fine if the service provider arranges such accommodation.