The happiest country in the world has decided to end Free Entry to Indian Nationals in Bhutan. Bhutan Govt. has decided to charge ₹1,200 (approx £13) a day from Regional Tourists from July 2020 onwards. Tourist from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives has to pay fee called Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), is meant to help the government deal with burgeoning numbers in tourist traffic, which it is seeking to regulate through a new tourism policy.
What is Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)
Dorji Dhradhul, Director-General – Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) stated the essence of the “High Value, Low Impact” policy is to monitor and provide the better facilities to the tourists in Bhutan. The policy was passed by the National Assembly of Bhutan as a ‘Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan-2020’. India, Maldives and Bangladesh under the age of 5 will not have to pay the levy and those between 6 and 12 years will be required to pay only ₹600. There is a vehicle tax of ₹100 per vehicle per day (irrespective of vehicle type) through if you wish to roam in Indian vehicle in Bhutan.
Unhappy Tour Operators
Regional tour operators from have expressed concerns that SDF may effect the numbers of tourists, specially during the Puja season in October.
However, Bhutanese authorities have assured that tourists from India would not be inconvenienced in the course of the implementation of the new regulation.
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. In contrast to other international tourists, who pay $250 (Approx. ₹18,000) as a minimum charge per day per person, which includes a $65 a day “Sustainable Development Fee”, as well as a $40 visa charge, tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives had so far paid no fees, and were able to cross over without visas, something that is now set to change.