Phurpa Lhamo

The introduction of the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, which increases the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to USD 200 per night for a tourist would be used to reinvest into making Bhutan a high-end tourist destination. 

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this was one of the major reasons why the sector needed reform when he appeared on national television on June 21. 

Lyonchhen said that moving forward, the plan is to invest in the sector and make Bhutan a high-end tourist destination. Investing and improving the sector would mean improving the guides, hygiene and sanitation, food services, and ensuring a safe society.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that with the amendment, the government with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) would focus on promoting Bhutan as a tourist destination globally. 

With the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, the minimum daily package rate (MDPR), which includes the royalty of USD 65 would be removed. 

The purpose of removing the MDPR and introducing USD 200 SDF was to encourage and ensure tourists the luxury to choose and spend more daily.

On tourists spending an average of Nu 200 on a meal and around Nu 2,000 on lodging, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the impact of making less money by the owners trickled down to the employees. 

He pointed out that currently, most employees in the service sector could not make a proper living. The target is to have tourists spend more in the country to benefit more people.

Lyonchhen said that to date, “middlemen” had made more money despite tourists spending USD 500 or more. “The plan is to have the agents connect with the tourist directly.”

Hosting high-end tourists, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said would also ensure Bhutanese learn from the tourists. 

On the timing of the Bill, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that with international experts already forecasting that the tourism sector would take about three years to bounce back to the pre-pandemic level the bill wouldn’t affect the industry. 

To take advantage of the reform, Lyonchhen said that operators and those in the sector should be innovative and bring forth ideas. 

As for regional tourists, they would still only be imposed the SDF of Nu 1,200 per night. They would have to hire a guide and pay to bring their car or hire one.  

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the new rules for regional tourists would be monitored for around three years and revised if they didn’t work.

This reform is expected to bring opportunities for guides and drivers due to an increase in the number of tourist arrivals to around 300,000 from a mere 70,000 (international tourists) in the past. 

The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, Lyonchhen said was for the greater good of the country and the future generations and that the benefits from the tourism sector should not only go to those in the sector but to the country and its people. 

“Every Bhutanese is a stakeholder of the tourism sector.”