Bhutan introduces the “Sustainable Development Fee” amid a spike in visitors

Bhutan will now levy a ‘sustainable development fee’ of 1,200 ngultrums (Rs 1,200.17) per day on tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives,  making visits to the Himalayan nation more expensive. The decision has been taken to protect the ecology of the country, amid a spike in visitors from India.

The new legislation, titled “The Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020”, passed in Bhutan’s lower house on Tuesday, requires visitors from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives to pay a fee of 1,200 ngultrums (Rs 1200.17) per day, probably from July onwards.

The new levy, however, will not be applicable across Bhutan. To promote tourism in the less popular Eastern Bhutan, the SDF will not be levied on tourists travelling to 11 districts in the region. This exemption will be applicable until December 2024, after which it will be up to the new government to decide if it continues.

Also, while children below the age of five will be exempt, those between the ages of six and 12 years will have to pay a fee of Rs 600.

There has been concern in Bhutan over the impact that the massive influx of tourists can have on the country’s fragile Himalayan ecosystem. The bulk of the tourist inflow is from India — of the 2,74,000 tourists to Bhutan in 2018, over 1,80,000, or roughly 66 per cent, were from India.

According to the Times of India, this “high value, low impact” strategy has come under strain in recent years because of a sharp rise in visitors from India – who are exempt from the levy. (Inputs:Indian Express)

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