The Bhutan Government set to charge levy from the regional tourists to visit. Basically, the levy is meant to charge from the tourists from the regional countries like India, Bangladesh, and Maldives. Previously, these countries were exempted from any charges to visit Bhutan. This new draft policy is to be finalized from the next month by the Bhutanese Cabinet. The policy was discussed by the visiting foreign minister of Bhutan, Mr. Tandi Dorji, and India’s External Affairs Minister, Mr. S. Jaishankar. The meeting was held in Delhi on this Monday, sources said.
According to the draft of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), the new policies are made due to the rapid increase in tourists, majorly from India.
“The essence of our ‘High Value, Low Impact’ policy, is that we will monitor our tourist arrivals depending on our capacity to cater to them. Over the last few years, the number of tourists has been increasing at a really rapid rate, growing about 10 times in the past decade, and this policy was under threat.” Says Director-General of TCB Dorji Dhradhul.
The Ministry of External Affairs refused to put any comment regarding the policy. As per an official, “India has some concern that the measures proposed should not cause too many hassles to Indian visitors,”
In the year 2018, according to the data, 2,74,000 tourists visited Bhutan, out of which around 1,80,000 were from India. Those tourists have not paid any charges so far. Moreover, they could cross the border without a visa as well. On the other hand, the other foreign nationals have to pay 250 USD or 18,000 INR per day per person, which includes 65 USD as a “Sustainable Development Fee” as well as 40 USD for the visa charges. As the new policy depicts, presently the countries like India, Bangladesh, and Maldives have to pay the development fee and the “Permit Processing Fee”.
Mr. Dorji Dhradul also says that the aim of the new policy is not to cut down the tourism number, but to make a growth in a sustainable manner. In addition, the Bhutan Government wants to stop the tourists from availing the low-cost accommodation as there are plenty of unregulated guest houses and homestays growing rapidly. Presently, they wrote to the online accommodation site ‘Airbnb’ to post only the TCB granted staying options.
“After hydropower, tourism is the most important source of revenue, so any impact on tourism does affect us. This is why we are keen to mainstream regional tourism, and bring it on par with our tourism policy for international tourists,” added Mr. Dhradul in the meeting for the 10th India-Bhutan Dialogue in Delhi.
As per the expert’s opinion, as Bhutan set to charge levy, this would discourage the tourists to visit the “Land of the thunder dragon”. Especially, people from the bordering area like West Bengal and Assam have criticized the policy as it will become quite difficult to have a trip due to the charges.
“The fees will certainly act as a check on mass tourism of the kind we see from India during festival seasons,” said Mr. Sudhir Vyas to ‘The Hindu”, former Indian ambassador in Bhutan. He added, ” however, the challenges Bhutan is facing for the uncontrolled tourism is well understood in New Delhi.”
Recently a biker from Maharashtra, India was detained by the Royal Bhutan Police as he dishonored by standing up on a holy Chorten. This disrespectful act has led to the local people to criticize the Indian tourists who aren’t accompanied by the tour guides.
The officials of the Bhutan Government is eager to explain the policy to the Indian Government. Officials said the decision will most likely be finalized by the next month until Foreign Minister Mr. Dorji’s visit to India.