Dhaka: Bhutan intends to bring a major shift in its tourism policy by imposing charges on tourists from regional countries such as Bangladesh, India and Maldives who are now excused from any charges.
Tandi Dorji, Foreign Minister of Bhutan discussed the draft of the new tourism policy in a meeting with S Jaishankar, External Affair Minister of India during his visit to Delhi on November 18. The draft, prepared by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), is likely to be finalised by the Bhutanese Cabinet next month.
The sharp growth in tourist arrivals from the region, mainly India, calls for the new charges, indicates the draft.
“The essence of our “High Value, Low Impact” policy (also called the “High Value, Low Volume” policy) is that we will monitor our tourist arrivals depending on our capacity to cater to them,” said Dorji Dhradhul, Director-General of TCB.
He further informed that tourist arrival has grown about 10 times over the past decade which is threatening the current policy.
In 2018, of the 2,74,000 tourists visiting Bhutan, the council estimated that about 2,00,000 were from the region, of which about 1,80,000 were from India. Compared to other international tourists, who pay USD 250 as a minimum charge per day per person including a “Sustainable Development Fee” of USD 65 a day and a visa charge of USD 40, tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives had so far paid no fees and were able to cross over without visas.
According to the new policy, however, they would be charged a Sustainable Development Fee, as well as a “permit processing fee.”
Also, during his five day visit this week, when Dorji will also travel to Bodhgaya and Kolkata, he is expected to discuss issues over hydropower tariffs and trilateral electricity deals with India and Bangladesh as well as building riverine connectivity in the region.