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Bhutan to reopen borders to tourists from September, but with triple tourist fee

For the first time since the pandemic began over two years ago, Bhutan has stated that it will reopen its borders to international travellers from September 23, without any restrictions. The Himalayan kingdom has also revamped its travel sector, focusing further on carbon-neutral tourism. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Land of The Thunder Dragon – Bhutan – is known for its breathtaking landscape, eclectic local cuisine, and thriving Buddhist culture. Every year, thousands head to the quaint mountainous region for a taste of what it has to offer, making tourism a major source of income for locals.

However, to limit the number of infections during the pandemic, Bhutan took drastic early steps and banned the inflow of tourists in March 2020. Later, it eased restrictions only to establish a mandatory 15-day quarantine. Now, a recent release from its tourism department has stated that the country was set to reopen its borders without restrictions come September 23.

Bhutan’s new tourism policy involves a focus on sustainability

The reopening has come with a new tourism levy policy, which states that any international tourist visiting would have to pay a sustainable development fee of USD 200 (Rs 15,817 approx.) per day. Earlier, this was set at USD 65 (Rs 5,140).

The increased fee, CNN reports, will go towards reducing tourists’ carbon impact. “COVID-19 has allowed us to reset — to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated… while keeping carbon footprints low,” Tandi Dorji, chairman of the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the country’s foreign minister, was quoted saying. Besides this, authorities have a new set of instructions for hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers. Each will now have to go through a robust certification process as well as skilling programmes to boost service quality.

Dorji Dhradhul, Director General, Tourism Council of Bhutan was quoted in a news report by Sentinel Assam as stating, “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. 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.”

Additionally, Bhutan has dropped its Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) for tourists. The fee would go towards accommodation, meals, and transfers and include the sustainability charges. This was capped at USD 250 (Rs 19,768 approx.) during peak seasons and USD 200 (Rs 15,814 approx. ) during off months. The system itself mandated tourists to apply to operators approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Now, however, travellers have more flexibility to choose their service providers, Telegraph India reports.

All images: Tourism Council Of Bhutan

Bhutan to reopen borders to tourists from September, but with triple tourist fee

Eshita is a food, alcohol, travel, and entertainment writer who spends her days zeroing in on the next big trend to write about. She’s a communication graduate with bylines in Conde Nast Traveller India, GQ India, Deccan Herald, and Girls Buzz. When not at work, you’re likely to find her hunting for a good read or charting out the perfect itinerary for a solo trip across Asia.

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