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Sustainability is the focus as Bhutan readies to open tourism post Pandemic

Amid the intensifying threat of climate change, Bhutan is stepping up its efforts to keep itself carbon-negative and promote green destination for tourists. The nation is keenly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as frequent rain and floods.

SNS | New Delhi |

Bhutan tourism:The Kingdom of Bhutan is reopening its border for the tourists from 23 September 2022, in order to renew the focus on the sustainability of the sector. The landlocked country in South Asia was forced to shut its door to international travels and impose restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

Dr. Tandi Dorji, Foreign Minister of Bhutan and Chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan said in the press release “COVID-19 has allowed us to reset – to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated, so that it not only benefits Bhutan economically, but socially as well, while keeping carbon footprints low. In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens”.

The revamped tourism sector of Bhutan aims to focus on three key areas – Infrastructure and services, the travel experiences of tourists, and the sector’s environmental impact.

The country is also planning to introduce a slew of changes such as revision of standards for service providers, including hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers, which will soon be subjected to a more robust certification process before they can engage tourists. Employees will be required to participate in schilling programmes to boost quality of service quality. 

Dorji Dhradhul, Director General, Tourism Council of Bhutan commented “Our strategy for the revamp of the tourism sector brings us back to our roots, of ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism, where we meet the needs of tourists while protecting our people, culture, values, and environment. Tourism is a strategic and valuable national asset, one that does not only impact those working in the sector but all Bhutanese. Ensuring its sustainability is vital to safeguarding future generations.” 

Amid the intensifying threat of climate change, Bhutan will also be stepping up its efforts to keep it carbon-negative and a green destination for tourists. The nation is keenly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as frequent rain and floods. As such, it will be raising the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD $65 per person per night for tourists to USD $200, which 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. 

 

Indian tourists will be stipulated to pay a previously stipulated fee, which will be revised at a later date. At the same time, the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) refers to the minimum sum paid by all tourists for an all-inclusive package tour to Bhutan will be removed. The MDPR has in the past often limited the tourist experience, as travellers could only choose packaged tours provided by tour operators. 

 

But now, tourists will have the flexibility to engage service providers directly, and pay for their services accordingly. The fee changes came into effect on 20 June, 2022. The revamp of the tourism sector comes amid a widespread transformation across the country, from the civil service to the financial sector. The changes are geared towards developing Bhutan’s human capital by equipping the population with more proficient skills, knowledge, and experiences.