Dechen Dolkar 

The counters for the collection of entry fee at monument sites that the tourists visit are still not open.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) notified on July 15 that the National Monument Committee revised the entry fee at monument sites with immediate effect.

The notification states that based on the itinerary, applicable entry fees will be collected by the TCB until September 23.

However, some of the tour operators and guides take their tourists directly to monument sites, assuming that they will pay entry fees at the sites.

Before the pandemic, a counter was placed near the sites to collect entry fees from the tourists.

One of the tour operators said that the notification has not clearly mentioned where they can pay the entry fee.

It was learnt that some tourists were not allowed to enter Punakha Dzong for not having paid the entry fee in advance to TCB and not producing letter from the office.

At some of the monument sites where there are no security personnel, the tourists can get inside without paying since there is no counter for fee collection and no one to monitor it.

Kuensel learnt that one of the tourists who visited Chimmi Lhakhang recently was not allowed to enter Phunakha Dzong on the same day because he had not paid a fee to TCB.

One of the guides, who was not allowed to enter inside the dzong, said that they were not aware of the requirement to pay entry fee, and of a letter from TCB.

He also said that the tourists have to go back with bad feelings.

The TCB has developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the collection of monument fees.

TCB has also informed all the dzongkhags that the council will collect an entry fee from foreign visitors and will be deposited to respective dzongkhag monuments until September 23.

The SOP states that the tour operator or applicant will notify TCB in advance about their plan to visit the particular monument site. TCB will collect the fee and deposit it in the monument account maintained by TCB.

The tour operator or guests should show the receipt and the recommendation letter to the officials at the monument site.

The Director General (DG) of TCB, Dorji Dhradhul, said that until September 23 tourists will have to deposit the fee in the TCB account. “Only then will TCB issue a letter to the respective dzongkhag to allow the guest to visit.”

After September 23, tourism will be formally opened.

Dorji Dhradhul said that tour operators were informed about the change and they should be aware of it.

He said that the council would meet with the tourist who was not allowed inside the dzong and explain the lapses.

“Any tourists visiting Bhutan should go back with absolute satisfaction,” Dorji Dhradhul said.