In an effort to strengthen a sector that is still trying to recover a year after COVID-19 restrictions ended, the Himalayan monarchy of Bhutan will cut in half the $200 daily fee it charges tourists.
When Bhutan lifted two years of COVID restrictions in September of last year, it increased its “Sustainable Development Fee” to $200 per visitor per night from $65, stating that the money will be used to offset the carbon produced by tourists.
The administration announced in a statement that the new cost of $100 per night would go into effect in September and last for four years.
“This is in view of the important role of the tourism sector in generating employment, earning foreign exchange … and in boosting overall economic growth,” it said.
Bhutan, a long-isolated country, began to welcome tourists in 1974 after receiving 300 travellers. According to government data, the number climbed to 315,600 in 2019, up 15.1 percent from the previous year.
In order to protect the sacredness of its peaks, Bhutan has always been concerned about the effects of mass tourism. The tourist tax has restricted entry to higher-spending tourists who represent a small portion of the tourists who travel to adjacent Nepal.
Bhutan intends to increase tourism’s share of its $3 billion GDP from its current five percent to 20 percent.
According to Dorji Dhradhul, director general of the Department of Tourism, the price reduction might increase arrivals during the busy travel season of September through December, which includes several religious and cultural events in the primarily Buddhist nation.