Bhutan has decided to re-open its borders for tourists for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020 – with the country welcoming international tourists from 23 September.
It has, however, decided to increase the sustainable development fees – mandatory to enter the country – from previous $65 per night, per person to $200.
The Himalayan Kingdom looks to revive its economy with this step of re-opening the country to tourists. Why the 200 percent increase in the fee? Here’s all you need to know about traveling to the only carbon-negative country in the world.
Why did Bhutan shut its borders in the first place?
Bhutan immediately banned tourism as soon as the first case of COVID-19 was detected there in March 2020. In the last two years, the country saw 60,000 infections and 21 deaths due to the pandemic.
After the vaccination of 90 percent of its 780,000-strong population, the country has announced plans to reopen their door for tourists.
The tourism industry in Bhutan employed at least 50,000 people and generated $84 million in revenue before the pandemic.
Why has the fee been tripled?
The country has decided to increase the Sustainable Development fee from the previous $65 to $200 per night, per person.
"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, Tourism Control of Bhutan chair, and the country's foreign minister said in a statement.
According to officials, the new fee will counter the tourists' carbon impact and will be used for carbon-neutral tourism activities.
“In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.”Dr Tandi Dorji, Bhutanese Foreign Minister
Will Indians also have to pay $200 dollars per person, per night?
As of now, all international tourists are required to pay the same amount of sustainable fee.
Do we need a visa to enter Bhutan?
No, Indians do not require a visa to visit Bhutan as tourists.
What other changes are being made to tourism industry?
According to News18, sustainability standards have been revised for service providers, such as hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers who will be subjected to a more rigorous certification process before tourists are welcomed.
Employees will also be required to undergo skilling programs to improve the quality of services.
“Our strategy for the revamp of the tourism sector brings us back to our roots, of ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism, where we meet the needs of tourists while protecting our people, culture, values, and environment. Tourism is a strategic and valuable national asset, one that does not only impact those working in the sector but all Bhutanese. Ensuring its sustainability is vital to safeguarding future generations,”Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of the Tourism Council of Bhutan to News 18
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