Bhutan has cut its tourism levy, known as the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), by half to bolster its tourism sector.
The 50% reduction on its tourism levy ($100 per person, per night, down from $200 per person per night) will come into effect from September 1, 2023 and shall remain in force for four years until August 31, 2027.
The change was made in view of the important role of the tourism sector in generating employment; earning foreign exchange; realising the potential for spillover benefits for ancillary industries; boosting overall economic growth; and funding important environmental, social and infrastructure projects.
The new tourist incentives and measures feature:
1. A fifty per cent (50%) reduction will be granted on the prevailing SDF of $200 for US dollar-paying guests visiting Bhutan. The SDF with the discount will amount to $100 per person per night for US-dollar paying tourists.
2. In addition, a fifty per cent (50%) reduction on the SDF shall be granted on the rates applied to children aged between 6 and 12 for US dollar-paying tourists. The SDF with the discount for children will be $50 per person per night for US-dollar-paying tourists. Children who have not yet turned six years are eligible to visit Bhutan without paying any SDF.
3. The 24 hours SDF waiver for tourists staying in the border towns shall continue.
4. Any guests who have already paid the SDF for their upcoming visit to Bhutan are eligible for refunds on any excess SDF amounts paid, and the amount will be refunded to the original payment account.
5. Duration incentives (4+4, 7+7, 12+18 nights packages) introduced in June 2023 have been revoked.
6. The 50% discount cannot be combined with the SDF waiver for border towns. Visitors wishing to explore border towns before or after the SDF discount must apply for another visa.
7. Indian guests (with an Indian passport or voter ID) pay 1200 Ngultrum or the equivalent in Indian Rupees per person per night. Indian children aged 6 to 12 receive a 50% discount, and those under six are exempt.
8. A visitor with a tourist visa can stay for a maximum of 90 nights from the entry date.
Commenting on the incentives, Dorji Dhradhul, the Director General of the Department of Tourism Bhutan, said: “While the global community continues to heal from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conflict persisting in Europe, and the challenges related to the cost of living that are impacting important markets for us, we have listened to the voices of our valued guests, as well as our colleagues in the industry and our global travel partners. As a result, we have taken the decision to temporarily lower our Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) with the aim of revitalising our tourism sector.
Bhutan started welcoming foreign tourists in 1974, and guests to Bhutan have always been required to pay a Sustainable Development Fee as part of Bhutan’s ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism policy. Funds from the SDF go to the government exchequer and are invested in free education and healthcare projects for all Bhutanese.
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