If you're a person who likes to travel, Bhutan would've surely been on your 'places to visit' list. Afterall, the Himalayan abode is no-doubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Thanks to frequent visits by A-list celebs, latest being Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli, Indian tourists have been flocking to the country. So much so, that Bhutan is planning on a new policy that will levy charges on tourists from neighbouring countries like India, Bangladesh and Maldives.
The rising influx of tourists was a point of discussion between Bhutan's Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji and Indian External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar at New Delhi.
As of now, Indian as well as other neighbouring tourists did not have to pay any fees and were able to travel to Bhutan without visas. Whereas on the other hand, other international tourists had to pay a hefty sum of $250 (Approx INR 18,000) as a minimum charge per day per person that included a $65 a day “Sustainable Development Fee”, as well as a $40 visa charge.
Director-General of TCB Dorji Dhradhul said, "The essence of our 'High Value, Low Impact' policy is that we will monitor our tourist arrivals depending on our capacity to cater to them. 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 this policy was under threat."
Director General clarified that the country was not cutting down on tourism. He added, "After hydropower, tourism is the most important source of revenue, so any impact on tourism does affect us. This is why we are keen to mainstream regional tourism, and bring it on par with our tourism policy for international tourists." Bhutan is also concerned about the rise of unregulated guest houses and homestays (like Airbnb).
Approximately 71% of the 2,74,000 people who visited Bhutan in 2018 were estimated to be Indian tourists, according to the Council.