Dechen Dolkar

The Department of Tourism (DoT) revoked the fines imposed on five non-certified hotels last month.

The department had penalised nine non-certified hotels with fines ranging from Nu 10,000 to over Nu 300,000 for providing services to tourists, last year.

However, some of the hoteliers appealed to the department to revoke the penalties, since the guests were non-tourists.

According to hoteliers, the DoT has penalised the hotels without inquiring whether it is tourists or non-tourists by looking at the name of the guest in the registration book.

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, last year.

The hoteliers said that the guests who stayed in their hotels were non-tourists, and they were exhibitors approved by the Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry.

According to the Tourism Rules and Regulations, an accommodation certified by the DoT will provide accommodation services to the tourist, which will be 3-star and above only. However, the non-tourists can stay in any hotel.

Another budget hotel in Thimphu said that they receive many inquiries from regional tourists.

“Since we are allowed to cater to non-tourists, our guests were all officials, who were technicians for corporations and project officials,” the hoteliers said.

The hoteliers said that they were fined Nu 10,000 for each guest.

“The officials on duty during the inspections themselves were not aware of the rules and regulations,” hoteliers said, adding that they also never cross-checked with the Department of Immigration if the guests were tourists.

The Director General of DoT, Dorji Dhradhul said that the inspection team has seen guest lists with foreigners’ names, and they thought that they were tourists.

“Our mandate is only to inspect the tourists,” the DG said.

The proprietor of Thimphu Residency, Ugyen Tenzin, said that they were imposed fines for catering service to tourists since they were not certified, though the hotel is categorised as a 3-star hotel.

The proprietor said that during the initial assessment, the hotel couldn’t get certified since a few things were not ready. Later when everything was ready and called the tourism officials for certification, they refused to come for the assessment.

“We were asked to keep a six-month grace period for the next assessment, which is not mentioned in any rules and regulations. I have to wait six months to open for business,” Ugyen Tenzin said.

However, the DG said that the department does assessments as and when required.