Currently, within the existing national protocol, every tourist must undergo a 21-day quarantine facility, so tourists who wish to visit are welcome to do so as long as they follow the regulations.
However, for the formal reopening, the Tourism Technical Advisory Group has worked on reopening guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). They have submitted the guideline and SOP to the Health TAG, and they’re waiting for a response.
According to the Executive Director and the chair of Tourism Technical Advisory Group Sonam Dorji, stake holders of tourism industry are discussing with the health ministry if there is any possibility of reducing the 21-day quarantine for tourists.
He said that as per the existing protocol the government pays for the quarantine facility and they have requested the government to look into if that can also apply for the tourist.
“What we are requesting is that even if the tourists arrive right now, the government will cover the quarantine costs, but they will be levied Sustainable Development Fee 65 dollars because the tourism act stipulates that every tourist would be charged 65 dollars,” he said, adding that they are also discussing about how to avoid charging 65 dollars during quarantine time because the tourists are technically in the country but not outside the room. As a result, they’ve asked the government to look into it.
He said, “However, we are not pressuring the government to open up tourism; we know that tourism is the hardest hit, and we also recognize the COVID’s influence on the country; But, if we do decide to open up, what would be the ground rules? What is going to be the standard operating procedure? so that we can advise our international counterparts and potential tourists on the procedures for entering the country if tourism opens.”
He added that almost every country is fighting for that small number of tourists to come in, and if tourism opens up, the country may offer incentives to the first batch of visitors. As a result, these are also being discussed with the government.
He said that the first sign of relaxation should be within the country; for example, when traveling from a high-risk to a low-risk area, a 7-day quarantine is imposed, which is not relaxed, implying that we are not prepared to open the doors for tourist.
“If the National COVID-19 Taskforce can state that we have achieved herd immunity to a certain extent, I believe we will be ready to fully open up tourism,” he said.
He said that even if the country opens up tourism with no quarantine facility and other intense measures, but if COVID is not confined in the neighboring nations, it will be useless for the country to open the door.
“Bangkok airport, which is Suvarnabhumi, is one of Bhutan’s important gates, and if it does not open, even if we do, again it will be useless for us to open the doors for tourist. The factors that define how we will open up our industry are not only internal, but also external. The airport is now permitted in Bangkok; however there are no transit facilities,” he said.
He added, “Our airlines, Tashi and Druk do not fly directly to Japan, America, or Australia, forcing potential tourists to board another plane. So our airline doesn’t have the capacity to issue a boarding pass for other flights, and other airlines can’t issue a boarding pass for Druk Air since they don’t have the capacity. As a result, we are keeping an eye on not only internal relaxation but also regional relaxation, particularly in Bangkok and Singapore. We are not looking at India right now because it has the highest COVID cases, and if the situation improves, it will help us make better decisions and encourage tourism.”
The Tourism Council of Bhutan had issued a notification stating that tourists will be permitted to visit the country if the tourist can stay in a 21-day quarantine period, during which SDF will be charged in accordance with the Tourism Rules and Regulations of 2017.
Minimum Daily Package Rate of USD 250 will be applicable only after the quarantine.