The Kingdom of Bhutan, high in the Himalayan Mountains, will dramatically cut its daily tourism fee next month in a move calculated to make the country more appealing to tourists — and consequently boost its economy.
“The Royal Government of Bhutan is pleased to announce additional incentives and policy measures to boost the tourism sector,” the Royal Government explained. “A 50 percent discount shall be granted on the prevailing Sustainable Development Fee [SDF] of USD $200 for U.S. dollar-paying tourists visiting Bhutan. The effective SDF with the discount shall be USD $100 per person per day for U.S. dollar-paying tourists.”
The new rate of $100 per night will take effect September 1, and it will remain in place through August 31, 2027.
“This change is in view of the important role of the tourism sector in generating employment, earning foreign exchange… and in boosting overall economic growth,” the government announced, according to Reuters.
Cutting the SDF by half should boost tourism in the September–December season. This is Bhutan’s peak tourism period because it’s when many religious and cultural events are held in the mainly Buddhist country.
Overall, Bhutan hopes to raise the contribution of revenue from tourism to its $3 billion economy by about 20 percent, Reuters continues. Revenue from tourism currently accounts for about 5 percent of the country’s revenue.
Bhutan And Tourism
Bhutan, located in the Himalayas between China and India, is known for its scenic natural beauty and ancient Buddhist culture.
Interestingly, the country didn’t open its borders to tourists until 1974, when it received 300 visitors. The number has since climbed, and in 2019, Bhutan received 315,600 tourists, according to Reuters.
Despite its location, however, the Royal Government of Bhutan has always been conscious of the possible impact of mass tourism and has prohibited mountain climbing to preserve the sanctity of its peaks.
Bhutan’s Tourism Fees
The Kingdom of Bhutan closed its borders to tourists in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it did reopen its borders in September 2022, the Tourism Council of Bhutan raised the SDF to $200 per night to offset tourists’ carbon impact. Importantly, that fee had been $65 per night for 30 years before the increase.
“COVID-19 has allowed us to reset — to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated… while keeping carbon footprints low,” Tandi Dorji, TCB chairman and the country’s foreign minister, said at the time, according to CNN.
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