The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) approved 13,244 tourists to visit Bhutan at the previous minimum daily packaged rate (MDPR) of USD 250.
All tours confirmed before June 20, this year can avail of rates applicable under the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan 2020, MDPR, which includes the royalty of USD 65.
The Tourism Levy Bill 2022 was tabled in National Assembly (NA) on June 20 and it is the day the Act comes into effect.
The NA passed the Bill saying that old pricing under the Tourism Levy Act 2020 will apply only to those tourists who had paid and confirmed their tours before June 20, this year.
TCB asked tour operators to submit documents related to bookings that were confirmed on or before June 20. The applications are verified and TCB issued an endorsement letter to operators formally approving the tours.
Once the tour operators receive the TCB endorsement, the tour can commence within December 31, 2023.
TCB Director General Dorji Dhradhul said that TCB has received 18,490 tourists from 388 tour operators claiming that they have applied for a visa before June 20 this year.
Of that, 14,429 applications were validated. TCB disqualified 4,061 applications for lack of adequate information about the tourists.
The DG said that 1,185 applications were not approved since they didn’t have the passport details of the applicants.
“The passport details are mandatory because it is possible that the guest could change the name when their visa is approved and there is a chance for a different person to come,” Dorji Dhradhul said. “We’re looking for only genuine cases who want to visit Bhutan.”
The applications were validated using the following information: visa application, name of tourist with passport details, booked air ticket, and payment made.
Dorji Dhradhul said that they have also verified with the airlines if tourists have booked their tickets.
He also said that not all the tourists have made the payment, there were some who have made some indications that they wanted to pay and there was evidence.
He said that they have checked and validated email conversations to confirm that they have applied before June 20.
The DG said that the main objective was to consider those tourists who have booked a tour before the pandemic which was postponed because of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Bhutan is not the only country imposing high fees and welcoming high-end tourists after the pandemic.
According to euronews.travel, an international media organisation, as travel restrictions ease, some countries are being more selective about who they welcome.
Last week, New Zealand’s tourism minister reiterated his desire to attract “high-quality tourists” rather than those who campervan around the country by eating dried noodles.”
In September 2021, Indonesia joined the list of countries seeking ‘quality’ visitors post-pandemic. Indonesia also mentioned that they won’t allow backpackers to enter once tourism is reopened.
Similarly, in Thailand, the government is attempting to lure high-earning digital nomads with its new 10-year work from Thailand visa.