Although the 14-day mandatory quarantine for international travelers has been brought down to five days, however, the tourism sector has proposed to the government for a test and go scheme with one-night quarantine requirement.
It was indicated that having a five-day quarantine would discourage tourists from entering the country. As a result, the tourism sector has proposed for one-night quarantine upon arrival, RT-PCR test upon arrival, and next day, if the test result is negative, then the tourist is allowed to visit all the locations identified as a green zone.
Currently, only arrivals by flight to Paro are entertained. The Chair of TCB, Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji, said that the government has not decided whether or not to welcome tourists via land because the border is still closed.
Lyonpo said, “We’re discussing about it because we need to make the policy changes before we open. We are also attempting to enhance the system, so it will take some time. We’re hoping to open in the autumn. TCB is in discussions with tour operators, guides, and hotels on how they will proceed once it opens. TCB has been holding several consultations. All of this will be implemented. It might take three months, but we are not sure.”
However, Lyonpo added that the tourists can arrive by land provided they are ready to comply with the quarantine requirement of five days.
The tourism sector has also proposed for the revival of bridge loan and deferment of EMI payments until the industry recovers, and marketing and airfare subsidies.
The sector also proposed for the assessment of tourism personnel, as almost all the tourism employees are engaged in other sectors during the pandemic period, therefore, there is the high possibility that most of them may not return back to the industry.
The report will help in assessing a pool of tourism personnel available or otherwise, and accordingly source new set of service personnel for smooth operation of tourism business.
According to the Association of Bhutan Tour Operators, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) informed the tour operators that all discounts like duration, group, student and child will be discontinued.
When the Tourism Levy Exemption Act 2018 was passed and was implemented, although there was no mention of discounts in the Act, all discounts were still provided as done in the Tourism Rules and Regulations 2017.
The sector stated that the Tourism Levy Act 2020 does not mention about the discounts, however, the lone tourist who came in 2021 was given duration discounts. The Act also does not mention about the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) of USD 250 and USD 200, but it is maintained till date.
As a result, the sector submitted that the TCB, as an apex authority, should be the one to approve the new rules and regulations as mandated by Tourism Levy Act 2020, and as it is done in other agencies.
They have asked for a stakeholders’ consultation on the new rules and regulations pertaining to Tourism Levy Act 2020.