The Foreign Minister Lyonpo Tandi Dorji who is also the TCB Chairman confirmed that the final draft Regional Tourism Policy and Guidelines would propose a daily Sustainable Development Fee instead of a one time one.
The TCB looked at various formulations including a one-time entry fee based on the suggestion of the Hotel Industry but the latest and final version proposes a daily one.
“As far as I know the SDF fee is going to be a daily fee. We are making one tourism policy and we can’t have a one off (SDF) and again keep monument fees and so we are trying to align it so that we have one system,” said Lyonpo Tandi Dorji.
Lyonpo said the figure has not been decided and the draft figures ranges from anywhere from Nu 500 per day to Nu 3500 per day. “It is definitely going to be per day,” said Lyonpo.
He said some recommended Nu 300 to 500 as a one time SDF fee, some have recommended USD 20 and some have recommended Nu 5000 per day.
“As I said in our consultations we are listening to all sides,” said Lyonpo.
“The idea is to have SDF and to align it with one policy. We want to have one system and where every tourist will come, pay SDF and get a guide.”
“We want to make it convenient and not have extra route permits. If they get a permit they can travel anywhere in Bhutan,” added Lyonpo.
Currently regional tourists have to get additional permits to travel beyond certain areas.
The Foreign Minister said that a common policy is not done to discriminate or reduce the numbers.
“We are doing it to make it convenient for Indian tourist and also making it easy for us to monitor and regulate and to have one policy that is High Value and Low Volume,” said Lyonpo.
Enumerating another benefit for regional tourists he said with the SDF they don’t have to pay the many entry fees for monuments and sites all over Bhutan.
The e-permit processing fee is Nu 500. Here, Lyonpo said that the fee is for the person here in Bhutan will have to process the permit but Lyonpo assured that the permit system would be made seamless.
For vehicles, Lyonpo said that all foreign vehicles entering Bhutan would have to pay a certain environmental fee.
A presentation to the cabinet will be made on December 13th and by then it should have finalized and it will then be submitted to Parliament for information submission.
The aim is to implement it by June 2020.
Lyonpo informed his Indian counterparts of the Bhutan’s draft measures and Lyonpo got a positive response from the Indian side which is sensitive to Bhutan’s concerns on this front.
The absence of a common tourism policy for regional tourists have meant that they are not able to avail the best experience of Bhutan’s tourism industry.
This has resulted in accidents, overcrowding in certain areas, unpleasant experiences, misunderstanding, cultural goof ups and other issues which the policy will aim to avoid so that regional tourists have a good experience and there is also positive impact for the locals.