Bhutan lowers tourist levy to draw more international visitors

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is actively working to increase international tourist arrivals, aiming to boost the tourism sector while maintaining a strong commitment to environmental conservation.

Bhutan’s director general of Department of Tourism (DoT), Dorji Dhradhul, shared with TTG Asia that Bhutan had, since August, halved its Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to US$100 per person, per night, and that this new, lower levy will be in effect until September 2027.

Dhradhul: a fantastic opportunity for more people to experience the beauty of our kingdom in the future

Dhradhul stated: “The change was made in recognition of the vital role of the tourism sector in job creation, economic growth, and foreign exchange earnings. The lower SDF presents a fantastic opportunity for more people to experience the beauty of our kingdom in the future, benefitting our citizens and supporting various projects funded by the SDF.”

It is important to note that a portion of the revenue generated from the SDF is allocated to various sustainability initiatives including the conservation of the pristine natural environment, upskilling workers in the tourism industry, reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and electrifying Bhutan’s transportation sector, among other projects.

Abhishek Bajgai, a sales manager at Bhutan Peaceful Tours & Treks, expressed support for the government’s decision to lower the SDF fee from the US$200 imposed when Bhutan reopened its doors to tourists on September 23 last year. He noted that before the Covid-19 pandemic, the SDF was US$65 per person, per night, making the current SDF slightly higher in comparison.

In addition to the SDF reduction, the Bhutanese government has implemented various initiatives to attract more international visitors and achieve the goal of having tourism make a greater contribution to the country’s economy. The DoT is collaborating with travel partners in Bhutan to create diverse itineraries to attract a more varied group of tourists.

Since reopening in September 2022, Bhutan has also made it easier for tourists to access the country by allowing them to independently book all aspects of their journey. In the past, all visitors were required to book their travel to and within Bhutan through an accredited tour operator.

Furthermore, significant investments have been made at the national level to enhance the skills of workers in the tourism and hospitality sectors, re-certify guides and accommodation providers, improve tourism infrastructure, and create new and unique tourism experiences. These efforts collectively aim to enhance Bhutan’s appeal as a tourist destination while preserving its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

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