It was recently announced that the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan will now reduce the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to US100, per person, per night. The impetus behind this fee reduction is to boost arrivals to the country.
While the increase in the Sustainable Development Fee was declared as a means to protect the nation’s ecology, a new tourism strategy was also unveiled describing the transformation of three key areas: enhancements to its sustainable development policies, infrastructure upgrades, and the elevation of the guest experience.
At the time when the fee was increased, the government admitted that it was not known if this fee increase would impact tourist arrivals with less travelers coming to visit. Then, HE Dr. Lotay Tshering, the Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, had stated:
“The minimum fee we are asking our friends to pay is to be reinvested in ourselves, the place of our meeting, which will be our shared asset for generations.”
“Bhutan’s noble policy of high-value, low-volume tourism has existed since we started welcoming guests to our country in 1974. But its intent and spirit were watered down over the years, without us even realizing it. Therefore, as we reset as a nation after this pandemic, and officially open our doors to visitors today, we are reminding ourselves about the essence of the policy, the values and merits that have defined us for generations.”
Bhutan was an isolated country for many years, only opening its borders to tourists in 1974 when it welcomed 300 visitors. By 2019, prior to COVID, over 315,000 travelers had visited that year. For several years, India was the only country from where Bhutan allowed an almost unrestricted flow of tourists with entry charges. The 2 countries share 376 miles of border, and India is influential over Bhutan’s foreign policy, defense, and commerce, with Bhutan being the largest beneficiary of India’s foreign aid.