In a major shift in policy, Bhutan plans to levy charges on tourists from regional countries, including India, Bangladesh, Maldives; who presently are exempted from any charges.
The new draft tourism policy, which is likely to be finalised by the Bhutanese Cabinet next month, was discussed by the foreign minister of Bhutan - Tandi Dorji with External Affairs Minister - S. Jaishankar at meetings in Delhi.
Reasons Behind Levying of Charges:
- Over the last few years the number of tourists has been increasing at a really rapid rate, growing about 10 times in the past decade, and the policy of High Value,Low impact was coming under threat.
- In contrast to other international tourists, who pay $250 (Approx. INR. 18,000) as a minimum charge per day per person, tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives had so far paid no fees, and were able to cross over without visas, thereby impacting revenue generation.
- Charges are needed stop regional tourists from using low-rent accommodation offered online, as this has led to a mushrooming of unregulated guest houses and homestays.
Experts say the measures could deter Indian tourists from visiting Bhutan, and may invite criticism from those wishing to visit from bordering states like West Bengal and Assam. Therefore need is to negotiate relaxed norms for Indian Tourists if full exemption is not agreed by Bhutan.