In an effort to revitalize its tourism industry, Bhutan has announced a reduction in nightly fees for visitors who extend their stay beyond four days. The move comes as Bhutan seeks to increase visitor numbers, which have remained significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels
Last year, after more than two years of border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhutan reopened its doors to tourists but raised its "Sustainable Development Fee" to $200 per visitor per night. This increase was intended to attract affluent tourists while discouraging budget travelers who could potentially harm the environment. The funds collected from the fee are used to preserve Bhutan's pristine landscape and offset the carbon footprint left by visitors.
Unlike its neighboring country Nepal, Bhutan prohibits mountain climbing in order to preserve the sanctity of its peaks. Consequently, Bhutan receives only a fraction of the tourist arrivals that Nepal does.
Starting this month and continuing until the end of 2024, tourists who pay the daily fee for four days will be granted an additional four days of stay. Similarly, those who pay the fee for 12 days will be able to enjoy a full month in Bhutan.
Dorji Dhradhul, the director general of the Department of Tourism, expressed optimism about the impact of this new incentive on Bhutan's economy. He emphasized that an increase in the length of tourists' stays would contribute to faster economic growth. However, it's worth noting that this incentive is applicable only to tourists who pay in dollars, excluding visitors from neighboring India who pay in rupees.
Dhradhul also revealed Bhutan's aspiration to elevate the contribution of tourism to 20% of its $3 billion economy, a significant increase from the current 5%. However, he did not provide a specific timeline for achieving this goal.
Since January, more than 47,000 tourists have visited Bhutan, and the country is on track to reach its "modest" target of hosting 86,000 visitors by the end of the year. In comparison, Bhutan welcomed approximately 315,600 tourists in 2019 before the onset of the pandemic.
Bhutan's decision to reduce daily fees for longer-stay tourists reflects its commitment to balancing economic growth with environmental conservation. By attracting more visitors who stay for extended periods, Bhutan aims to create a sustainable and prosperous future for its tourism industry.