Bhutan

Bhutan to reopen with triple tourist tax – Travel Weekly

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Bhutan will require a tax of US$200 ($291) a day on international tourists when it reopens in September, as tourist hotspots around the world consider using permit systems and fees to limit visitor numbers.

This South Asian wonder is often referred to as “The Last Shangri-La” for its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and sustainable development.

Bhutan has a “high value, low traffic” tourism policy to preserve the country’s natural resources. This requires tourists to join a tour and pay a $65 per day “sustainability fee.”

It’s now canceled and travelers must pay the government a fee of $291 per day. The new policy repositions Bhutan as an “exclusive destination”, attracting “discerning tourists” who have greater access to a wider range of higher quality services, officials said.

“Covid-19 has allowed us to reset, to rethink how best to structure and operate the sector so that it benefits Bhutan not only economically but also socially, while maintaining a low carbon footprint,” said Bhutanese Foreign Minister and Chairman Dr. Tandi Dorji said. Bhutan Tourism Board said.

“In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.”

Travel agents are concerned about the change, which they believe will cost them less business.

“Just when we thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel after two and a half years of closure, the government’s tourism amendments have plunged us back into darkness, and we don’t know how to proceed,” said Pelden Dorji, chief executive of the Bhutan Tourist Club.

The previous policy meant that all bookings and payments had to be made through registered local travel agents.

Megan Petersen, a London-based makeup artist who visited Bhutan in 2017, said: “It’s basically a package tour that lets you see a real, untouched corner of paradise while protecting yourself from Invaded by tourists.”

“It’s genius, the same model should be used where there is an overtourism problem.”

Bhutanese government officials said the previous policy discouraged out-of-pocket expenses because many travel agencies organized holidays so that travelers could spend no more than the daily rate of US$250.

“This policy has created more misunderstanding than understanding, and it has resulted in a reduction in the services we could possibly provide,” said Bhutanese Prime Minister Lot Tsering.

Tourism revenue is a large part of Bhutan’s economy, accounting for 6% of the country’s gross domestic product. According to the Bhutan Tourism Board, 315,599 tourists visited in 2019, bringing in US$225 million (US$328 million) for the tourism industry.

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