Jigmi Wangdi  

Tourists visiting Bhutan can purchase gold from the Bhutan Duty-Free shops in Phuentsholing and Thimphu. The shops started selling gold on March 1.

In Thimphu, tourists can purchase the gold from the duty-free shop at Chubachu and in Phuentsholing, the duty-free shop will be temporarily housed at the Bank of Bhutan office.

Director General of Department of Tourism, Dorji Dhradhul, said that along with the regular travel documents, the tourists will be required to show two specific documents before buying the gold.

“One document is the evidence of having paid the SDF, which will be a receipt issued by the Department of Customs and the second document should be a receipt that proves the tourist has spent a night in a tourist standard hotel in Bhutan,” Dorji Dhradhul said.

Dorji Dhradhul added that a tourist will be sold a maximum of 20 grams of gold.

The price of gold at the duty-free shops will be based on the global gold price.

“However, products bought from a duty-free shop anywhere in the world are cheaper, which is the same in Bhutan. The same principle will also be applied to the sale of gold. Therefore, the gold bought from the Bhutan Duty-Free shops should be cheaper compared to the normal market,” Dorji Dhradhul said.

The sale of the gold will only be for tourists paying the SDF, which could be Indian and international tourists. Dorji Dhradhul said that non-tourist foreigners and Bhutanese nationals will not be eligible to purchase the gold.

Tourists buying the gold will have to use USD currency for payment. Other forms of currency will not be accepted. 

While many said it would benefit  businesses in Phuentsholing, hoteliers shared concerns whether the introduction of selling gold can improve their situation.    

A hotel manager in Phuentsholing, Namgay said that he was doubtful whether the sale of gold can increase the inflow of tourists.

“This is the first time Bhutan is selling gold, but I am not sure if it will benefit us, hoteliers, even with the requirement. We cannot be certain whether there would be more number of tourists to buy the gold,” Namgay said.

He said that it has been difficult for his hotel to function with the new SDF as most tourists prefer to stay in Jaigaon and then go straight to Thimphu or other dzongkhags.

Kencho is another hotelier who shared similar concerns. She says that right now her hotel is getting minimal tourists and some domestic travellers who are going to India.

“Tourists might not come just for one night to buy gold. The SDF has made our situation quite bad and I cannot say for certain that the sale of gold can improve it,” Kencho said.

However, Dorji Dhradhul said the objective of selling gold is to diversify the products sold at duty-free shops.

“Currently, the Bhutan Duty-Free shop already sells alcohol, cosmetics, food and other products. We wanted to add gold so that the tourists can buy the gold as souvenirs to take back with them because the gold being sold here will have its own Bhutanese brand,” said Dorji Dhradhul.