It is hoped tourism will pick up with the SDF waivers

Govt likely to give SDF waivers for longer stays and one-night border town halts

The government will not do away with the USD 200 per day Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for tourists and INR 1,200 per day (SDF) for Indian tourists, but it is considering giving major waivers to promote the tourism sector in Bhutan which is in a major slump after the pandemic.

The first move that may happen soon is that all the SDF, be it the USD 200 or the INR 1,200 per day, will be waived off for 24 hours for all tourists halting at border towns where tourist entry is permitted like Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse.

This means that a tourist or group of tourists can halt a night at these border towns without having to pay the SDF.

The other larger initiative which is being considered for the whole country is that if USD 200 SDF paying tourists come for longer duration stay then the SDF can be waived off after a number of days.

For example, if a tourist comes for 10 days then the SDF could be charged for the first five days only with the remaining five days being waived off.

This means that the tourist who is eligible to pay USD 2,000 SDF for 10 days on paper will actually have to pay only USD 1,000 for 10 days due to the waiver.

While the waiver is being seriously considered the exact number of days has not yet been finalized.

At the moment, the waiver based on the duration of stay is not being considered for the INR 1,200 SDF paying tourists.

The 24-hour waiver in the border towns is to help the struggling economy of the border towns as the hotels there do not have enough guests staying.

Currently tourists stay in Jaigaon and visit Phuentsholing during the day and go back. This 24 hours’ waiver will enable tourists and visitors to at least spend a night in the Bhutanese border towns.

In the case of the waiver of USD 200 SDF for longer stays the aim is to get these tourists to not only stay for longer in Bhutan, but also to visit other areas outside Thimphu, Paro and Punakha to central, eastern and other less visited parts of Bhutan.

Both the above moves are promotional in nature and will be put in place for a year or two to allow the local tourism industry to recover and also attract tourists.

The promotional campaigns are being put in place as the global tourism industry is still in recovery mode after the pandemic, and also due to other popular destinations going all out to get tourists to the point of offering money and free airline tickets to tourists.

Taiwan is giving cash handouts of USD 165 to the first 500,000 individual tourists and allowance of up to USD USD 658 to 90,000 tour groups.

Hong Kong is giving 500,000 free air tickets worth 2 billion Hong Kong dollars to attract tourists.

Sicily in Italy will give a 50 percent discount on the airline ticket, add an excursion, guided tour or dive for free and give you an additional free night if you book for three nights.

Malta will give 5 star hotels 100 euros per person for each booking, 75 Euros per person for each booking in 4 star hotels and 50 Euros per person for each booking in 3 star hotels.

Cyprus has promised to cover all accommodation, food, drink and medication costs of tourists who catch COVID-19 while in Cyprus. They only need to foot the bill for the airport transfer and return flight.

Cancun in Mexico will offer two free nights for every two nights booked and it will refund the fare of one person so one can bring a companion along.

Japan and UK are offering domestic incentives to local tourists and Japan is expected to offer major discounts to international tourists once COVID-19 subsides more.

For Bhutan the tourism season starting from 23 September 2022 has been an underwhelming experience with only a fraction of pre pandemic numbers coming in.

From 23 September 2022 to 22 March 2023 a total of only 31,017 tourists have come in of which 18,221 are from India paying INR 1,200 SDF, 7,070 are those paying the old SDF of USD 65 and 5,726 are those paying the new USD 200 SDF.

Of the 31,017 tourists who came in so far since last year a total of 10,120 tourists came in 2023 from 1st January 2023 to 22nd March 2023.

Of the 10,120 tourists the Indian tourists are 7,068, the USD 65 SDF paying tourists are 1,002 and the USD 200 SDF paying tourists are 2,050.

Check Also

BDBL declares dividends after 13 years

How BDBL went from 192 mn loss in 2022 to 378 mn profit in 2023 …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *