Tourism Association proposes for SDF waiver to the NA

The Tourism Association has proposed the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) waiver to the government as a post-COVID recovery measure.

The group has presented a proposal to the National Assembly’s Economic and Finance Committee, requesting consideration during the forthcoming session.

During the meeting of tour operators and Tourism Council of Bhutan on Tuesday, the President of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators, Sonam Tobgay Dorji, said that the three sector associations; the hotel, the guides and ABTO put a joint appeal to the National Assembly and the government asking them to waive the SDF.

The basis for the association’s proposal, he added, was a frantic plea from the hotels.

“And we need to be united and what we said is once the numbers comes back to pre COVID then the government can re-impose the SDF. And we are hoping that they will take it seriously,” he said.

He added, “And it’s going be a two way thing. There might have to be some negotiation, there might be some compromises on our way.”

The association has also met with the National Assembly members. “We have been knocking doors and we have been quite relentless in terms of trying to get the legislative body and executive to be hopefully little bit sympathetic to what our industry is suffering through.  There is a sense of desperation and I think government has to be sensitive to this unpleasant psychosis that the whole industry is suffering from. What we’d like is for the government to step in and notify us every now and then,” he said, adding that even if they can’t start the business at least they would like to feel the sense of optimism.

He also stated that the industry would want to be confident that tourism will open at some point.

“We can’t sit for an eternity or we’ll die of hunger. The government must devise a strategy for quickly opening up the industry and developing SOPs. We are grateful to His Majesty’s Kidu and the government’s assistance, but it is not good or right for us to be welfare recipients at some point. We want to now work and provide and give back to the country. And we are ready for that now and what we need is help from the government to facilitate the industry, we need fiscal incentives. And we hope TCB will fight on behalf of the industry when it comes to the Ministry of Finance,” he said.

He said that the sector needs a strong support from TCB, Department of Immigration and as an industry they need to make sure the airlines do well.

“And it is in our interest to support the two airlines and also support the hotels. The industry has to be united,” he said.

The Sustainable Development Fee of USD 65, is a tax imposed on tourists in accordance with the Tourism Policy, and the Minimum Daily Package Rate is also imposed to cover the costs of the driver, guide, food and lodging.

Currently the SDF is levied on the tourist during quarantine period as per the Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017 by which various discounts are available.

It was learned that the subject is not on the parliament’s agenda. The committee, on the other hand, will present a report to the parliament next month.

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