Tourism tariff rationalization in 2017

The Economic Development Policy (EDP) of the government says that the Tourism Council of Bhutan will draw up a strategy for tariff rationalization by 2017.

The EDP says the government shall create conditions to allow more competition and greater choices for visitors which is also code for changing the current tariff structure.

The current royalty will be renamed as Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and shall be one of the mechanisms to promote high value low impact tourism.

According to a government official the tariff rationalization will happen in 2017 though it is too early to say if there will be a complete tariff liberalization given strong opposition to it from Tour Operators.

What is encouraging the government to go in for tariff rationalization is the response to the Thai and Japan offers which offered a discounted tariff rate.

It is also emerging from growing malpractices in the tourism sector of guests being kept in poor quality accommodations like private homes, being given poor food and undercutting of tariff rates by tour operators.

There has also been steady lobbying by the airlines, hotels, restaurants and other small businesses who want to see higher numbers of third country tourists and less power in the hands of tour operators.

Issuance of tourist visa or permit shall be simplified by Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to reduce administrative burden by 2017.

The TCB will also develop and implement a streamlined mechanism for regional visitors to Bhutan by 2017 to ensure enrichment of visitor experience as well as enhancement of benefit to the hosts. It will also finalize the absorptive capacity of the infrastructure, culture and environment by 2017.

The EDP also says that expatriates will be allowed to work in key positions in the hospitality sector.

The government will diversify tourism products having comparative advantage and with special emphasis on nature based activities including community based tourism, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions or Events (MICE), and wellness and spiritual tourism.

There will be establishment of new tourism clusters with appropriate services and activities.

The government will seek to encourage and promote tourism throughout the country all year round and it will also be used as a means to diversify rural economy. Establishment and promotion of new markets shall be a priority.

A Tourism Policy will be adopted by 2017 to promote sustainable tourism.

Government will continue to encourage and support the tourism industry in consultation with relevant stakeholders to promote the country as an exclusive tourism destination.

Domestic tourism will also be encouraged for sustainable tourism development. Appropriate infrastructure and recreational facilities such as parks, theme based attractions and accommodation facilities shall be developed to promote domestic tourism.

In order to develop and promote regionally balanced tourism, the government will ensure creation of Regional Tourism Offices in east, central and south Bhutan by 2017.

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