Dechen Dolkar   

With the surge of Indian tourists and only one counter for Sustainable Development Fees (SDF) at the Pedestrian Terminal in Phuentsholing, tourists experience significant inconvenience.

The Department of Revenue and Customs (DRC) collects SDF from tourists on arrival at the Phuentsholing terminal gate and at Paro International Airport arrival terminal.

Tourists and tour operators claimed that with only a single SDF payment counter at Phuentsholing and Paro’s entry gate, tourists have wait for more than two to three hours to pay the SDF.

Under the current tourism policy, Indian tourists can pay the SDF online or on arrival at the entry gate. Indian tourists can either plan their own trip or avail the services of local tour operators to process travel documents and plan the trip.

However, Indian tourists prefer to pay the SDF on arrival because when they pay the SDF online, they must pay taxes to their government. They are required to pay five percent GST and Tax Collected at Source (TCS) of 20 percent or five percent based on the tax slabs of each traveller.

Tourists often avoid the charges associated with online bank transfers. Additionally, tour operators encourage tourists to bring cash to pay the SDF,as it is more convenient for them to handle cash transactions.

Yesterday, in Phuentsholing, with only one SDF payment counter, tourists had to wait for more than three hours.

Upon entering the gate, tourists must pay the SDF; the immigration office then issues the permit or visa.

In a day more than 300 tourists enter from Phuentsholing terminal.

In Paro, the counter gets crowded when there is a chartered flight. Each chartered flight has 126 passengers. 

The Department of Tourism raised concerns with the DRC asked for additional counters to provide seamless services.

The official from the DRC said the office set up four additional counters at Paro International Airport to ease the crowd during chartered flight arrivals.

The official said that in Phuentsholing, the office is trying to ease the crowd by deploying their own staff and asking them to multitask.

“The department is facing a shortage of human resources, and last year more than 20 staff members resigned from the department,” said the official.

The official from the DRC also mentioned that the crowding does not occur all the time. 

The official said that if Indian tourists pay the SDF online, they would not have to wait in long queues.