Bad news! Bhutan reopens its borders with triple tourist-fees
After a gap of two long years, Bhutan is all set to reopen its borders for tourists from September 23. It is the first time the country is permitting tourists from across the world since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However, the Himalayan country has decided to increase the sustainable development fees from $65 per person per night to $200!
Why did Bhutan close its borders to tourists?
Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world and is trying to revamp its economy by allowing tourists to visit again. In March 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Bhutan following which the country immediately closed its borders to tourists. There were around 60,000 infections and 21 deaths reported in Bhutan over the last two years due to the pandemic.
Decision was taken after 90% of Bhutan's population were vaccinated
The country announced its plans to reopen its doors to tourists after 90% of Bhutan's 780,000 population were vaccinated. Bhutan's tourism sector generated a revenue of $84 million before the pandemic by employing around 50,000 people. According to a press statement, the tourism sector will go through a revamp and focus on travel experience, infrastructure, and services, and the sector's environmental impact.
The new fee will be used for carbon-neutral tourism activities
Tandi Dorji, Tourism Control of Bhutan chair, and Bhutan's Foreign Minister said, "COVID-19 has allowed us to reset - to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated... while keeping carbon footprints low." According to officials, the new fee will be used to deal with the carbon impact of tourists and be utilized for carbon-neutral tourism activities.
Sustainability standards have been revised for service providers
"In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens," Dorji further said. There has been a revision of sustainability standards and the hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers have to follow a strict certification process before welcoming international tourists. Skilling programs have been arranged for employees to ensure quality services.
The Minimum Daily Package Rate will also be removed
The Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) will be eliminated and tourists can engage service providers directly. Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of the Tourism Council of Bhutan said, "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."
What is Minimum daily package rate (MDPR)?
The minimum daily package covers a minimum of 3-star accommodation, all meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay, all internal transport excluding flights, camping equipment, all internal taxes and charges, and a sustainable development fee.
Tourism is a strategic and valuable national asset: Dhradhul
"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," Dhradhul further said.Share this timeline