Bhutan seeks Indian permission to increase tourism tariffs

Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji is on five-day India visit where he is seeking permission from the Indian government and politicians to levy charges on regional tourists including Indians visiting Bhutan.

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) drafted new policy aimed at curtailing cheap regional tourist – triggered by recent accident of Indian tourists turning insensitive to Bhutanese culture.

TCB said the mass regional tourism has negative impact on Bhutan’s essence of ‘high value, low impact’. 

Currently tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives do not have to pay any fees for travelling to Bhutan – including visa. TCB the new charges have been necessitated by the sharp increase in tourists from the region, mainly India, who cross over the land boundaries.

Bhutan is presenting the case of levy charges as being plan towards sustainable tourism. Dorji presented his case to Indian Minister of External Affairs (MEA) S Jaishankar on Monday seeking his permission to implement the new policy.

Indian media reported that MEA expressed “some concern that the measures proposed should not cause too many hassles to Indian visitors.”

In 2018, of the 2,74,000 tourists visiting Bhutan, TCB estimated that about 2,00,000 were from the region, of which about 1,80,000 were from India. 

TCB has also recently notified Airbnb that only government approved guest houses must be included in its online accommodation site. The initiative was taken as a measure to curb on house owners turning their residence into guesthouse. It affected the business of big hotels and put pressure on availability of public rental properties. 

Dorji is expected to discuss issues over hydropower tariffs and trilateral electricity deals with India and Bangladesh, as well as building riverine connectivity in the region, during his stay in India.

Dorji is planned to return to Thimphu on Saturday after visiting Bodhgaya and West Bengal.

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