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Bhutan is tripling its daily Sustainable Development Fee for tourists

Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom famed for its beauty, culture, and a focus on the GNH (Gross National Happiness) of its citizens, knows how to do self-care well. After a very effective pandemic response, the kingdom is opening for tourism again this September. The government has just announced changes to its tourism regulations. Bhutan’s tourism tax, the Sustainable Development Fee, is increasing, from $65 to $200 USD per day. But the government is scrapping the requirement to purchase all-inclusive group package tours. Let’s explore some of the details…

You no longer need to purchase a package tour in Bhutan

Bhutan has always approached tourism with a focus on “High Value, Low Volume”, to prevent over-tourism and ensure tourist funds were channeled into good paying jobs and projects that preserved its environment.

Previously, the kingdom had what they called the Minimum Daily Package Rate. It was $250 USD per day, per person. Tour operators had to charge at least that amount. The government is now dropping that requirement to give tourists and businesses in Bhutan more flexibility. Now there will just be a Sustainable Development Fee that tourists pay.

Dancers wearing dharmapala masks, perform at a temple festival in the Mongar region of eastern Bhutan. © Shutterstock.

Bhutan's Sustainable Development Fee will help fight the effects of climate change

Bhutan is a carbon negative country. The pristine landscape helps sink more carbon than the country produces. It wants to stay that way.

Tourists to Bhutan will pay a tourist tax to the government, the Sustainable Development Fee, of $200 USD per day, per person. In the press release to announce the change, the government explained the fee “will go towards activities that promote carbon-neutral
tourism and building a more sustainable tourism sector. This includes offsetting the carbon footprint of tourists and upskilling workers in the sector.”

You can read the full press release from the Tourism Council of Bhutan here: Bhutan will reopen borders in September with renewed focus on sustainability

Bhutan’s move is similar to other countries (like Palau’s sustainability incentives program for tourists) that are taking advantage of the reopening after the pandemic to look at more sustainable forms of tourism that support communities and the environment.

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