Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan’s (HRAB) officials say that the implementation of the e-permit system and sustainable development fees (SDF) for regional tourists could impact business in the country.

E-permit is a pass for regional tourists that can be applied online.

Chairman of HRAB, Thinley Palden Dorji, said that currently the concern is the introduction of the new rules that could create a situation where 50-60 percent of tourists could stop coming and impact the business industry. “We do agree that we need to manage the number of regional tourists in the country, what we disagree on is how and to what extent.”

According to the new regulations, which are yet to be approved by the Cabinet, the e-permit could only be issued from Phuentsholing and Paro.

“If e-permit is mandatory then most  of the small hotels will be forced to shut down,” Thinley Palden Dorji said.

Manager of Hotel Chophel Norkyi in Thimphu, Nirmala Sharma, said that her hotel does not have the facility of the internet. “If both permit on arrival and e-permit could be operated, we won’t be forced out of the game.”

There are over 200 budget hotels in the country today.

The HRAB submitted an appeal to the Cabinet yesterday.

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) conducted a meeting on the revised rules on October 31. It proposed to implement new changes with effect from January 1 next year.

Officials said that the introduction of SDF of Nu 500 per person a day could lead to a drop in the number of tourists coming to the country.

In addition to the monument charge and requirement of hiring a car, a guide, and booking hotel in the country, tourists have to pay SDF.  Currently, no SDF is charged to regional tourists.

“We proposed that SDF be introduced with Nu 500 per person per trip initially and then slowly increased on the basis of the implementation,” Thinley Palden Dorji said.

He said that the change should be rational, reasonable and gradual.

A representative of budget hotels, Cigay Dorji, said that this would adversely affect the business of the budget hotels.

TCB said it has no comments since the rules are under discussion.

Rinchen Zangmo