Bhutan reopens borders for tourism with increased SDF of USD 200
Twenty-three foreign visitors landed in Bhutan on Friday, the first to arrive as the Himalayan kingdom reopened its borders after more than two years following the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials looking to tourism to help revive the local economy, reports Reuters.
“Tourism for us is more than just revenue,” said Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), after receiving the first visitors at the country’s only international airport at Paro, near the capital city of Thimphu.
He said the tiny country was keen to be “very much a part of the whole world”.
“We feel through tourism we can do that … take advantage of their support and goodwill,” he told Reuters from Bhutan, referring to the international community.
In July, Bhutan raised its Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to USD 200 per visitor per night from the USD 65 it had charged for three decades saying it was keen to welcome more tourists who could spend money.
Officials said the fees would be spent on projects like planting trees, upskilling tourism workers, maintaining hiking trails, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and electrifying transportation vehicles to offset tourists’ carbon footprints.
About 315,600 tourists visited in 2019, up 15.1% from the year before, with visitors contributing about USD 84 million on average each year to the economy for the three years before the pandemic hit, TCB data showed.