A minimum daily tariff to be charged to all tourists

Dechen Tshomo

Refuting claims that the government discussed the tourism policy with the government of India, chairperson of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) Dr Tandi Dorji said that the government did not consult the Indian government on the draft tourism policy.

TCB chairperson and Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji yesterday said that the Indian government officials were briefed about Bhutan’s stand on the draft tourism policy, along with other developments during the minister’s recent visit to India.

“We informed them about the new changes in the tourism policy and also sought their understanding and support,” Lyonpo said

“The Bangladesh ambassador was also informed and we sought their support.  We will do the same with the Maldivian government,” said Lyonpo adding that this was done because their people are affected.

The minister informed that along with the tourism policy, there are guidelines like regional tourism management guidelines. “The whole idea is to align it as one policy where all tourist visiting the country are charged a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF).”

There will be no distinction between regional and international tourists. “A tourist will be a tourist and they will follow the same procedure,” Lyonpo said.

While Lyonpo, at the meet the press session yesterday confirmed that an SDF will be charged to all tourists visiting Bhutan including regional tourists who currently are exempted from paying the SDF, the amount to be charged is yet to be decided.

TCB will meet with all the stakeholders in the country, get their feedback and then decide on the SDF amount. Lyonpo met with some of the stakeholders in the afternoon of November 28.

The meetings with the stakeholders to discuss the draft policy and SDF amount will continue until December 13 when the minister will make a presentation to the cabinet. It will then be tabled for discussion in the parliament.

TCB officials said the change in the policy is to regulate and manage tourists effectively so that irrespective of where the tourists came from, they have the best experience.

Lyonpo said that the SDF for regional tourist including visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives is to provide the visitors with better services and also for their convenience and safety.

When tourists pay the daily SDF, they would not have to pay the various entry fees for the various tourism sites and monuments within the country.

Besides the SDF, compulsory guides for regional tourist, and all regional tourist requiring to obtain e-permits to enter Bhutan are some of the measures proposed in the draft tourism policy and guidelines.

The draft national tourism policy is expected to be finalised by this year.