The National Assembly has passed the Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020 that proposes to impose Nu 1200 a day as sustainable development fee (SDF) for regional tourists. Children under five years will be exempted from SDF, while those between six years and 12 years will be levied 50 percent.
Only one member in the house opposed the bill out of 44 members present and voting earlier this week.
The upper house National Council also adopted the bill with some amendment recommendations. One these recommendations are adopted or rejected in the National Assembly the bill will be sent to King for ascent.
However, the SDF would not be levied for those visiting 11 districts – Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjonkhar, Tsirang (Chirang), Dagana, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Sarpang (Sarbhang).
Six eastern districts already enjoy the exemption of SDF of USD 65 on international tourists. Additionally, the Bill extends the same exemption to Tsirang (Chirang), Dagana, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Sarpang (Sarbhang). Even though Samchi do not receive any tourists, the district was not listed on exemption.
The Bill is expected to be implemented from July this year.
The exemption of levy will expire on December 31, 2024, according to the Bill. It will be up to the next government to decide on whether or not the exemption will be continued.
The government hopes to open gates in Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar as entry point for tourists when the act comes to implementation.
The bill was brought in rush following outcry over Indian tourists, who outnumber others, ignoring the cultural sensitivities of the country.