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Tourism to play a leading role in the economic resurgence of Bhutan

There’s a new Asian destination vying for your attention by making it more affordable to fit into your itinerary.

The Tiger's Nest at Paro Bhutan is one of Bhutan's most famous attractions.

Bhutan has announced it is cutting the daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) by 50% for another four years in an effort to boost its visitor numbers.

The fee to visit one of the world’s most remote destinations is now $US100 (approx. $AU156) per person per night (down from $US200 per person per night) and will be in effect until September 2027.

The change was made in view of the important role the tourism sector has in generating employment, earning foreign exchange, realising the potential for spillover benefits for ancillary industries and boosting overall economic growth and funding for important environmental, social and infrastructure projects.

“Similar to our nation itself, our approach to our tourism policy stands out for its uniqueness,” said Tourism Bhutan Director General, Dorji Dhradhul.

“We acknowledge the necessity of embracing change and occasionally refining both our policies and strategies to better match prevailing market conditions.

The Punakha Dzong Palace overlooks the Mo Chhu river.

“The lower SDF represents a great opportunity for more people to visit our beautiful kingdom in the future, which will benefit our people as well as the many projects that are funded by the SDF.”

Bhutan started welcoming foreign tourists in 1974 and guests have always been required to pay the SDF as part of the country’s ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism policy.

Funds from the SDF go to the government exchequer and are invested in a range of projects that are designed to support Bhutan’s preservation and progress and ensure the country never becomes a mass tourism destination.

The projects funded by the SDF include the provision of free healthcare and education for all Bhutanese, a range of sustainability and conservation projects, cultural preservation programs, infrastructure upgrades and youth development programs.

Since January, Bhutan has received almost 60,000 visitors which matches what was forecasted for 2023 arrivals. It is expected the country’s tourism numbers will rebound to pre-pandemic figures in 2025.

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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 5 September 2023

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