Bhutan sets reopening date and raises the daily tourist tax

Bhutan is going to reopen for international tourists from September for the first time since the pandemic started more than two years ago, officials said as the tiny Himalayan kingdom looks to revive its economy.

Situated between China and India, the country with scenic natural beauty and ancient Buddhist culture, took some early drastic steps and banned tourism, a major source of income, in March 2020 when the first COVID-19 case was detected there.


The constitutional monarchy of less than 800,000 people has reported less than 60,000 infections and only 21 deaths, but the $3 billion economy contracted in the last two fiscal years, shifting more people into poverty.


The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) said that the tourists would be allowed to enter from September 23.


However, they will, be charged a Sustainable Development Fee of $200 per tourist per night, up from the $65 charged for three decades. Officials said the new fee would offset tourists’ carbon impact.


“COVID-19 has allowed us to reset — to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated… while keeping carbon footprints low,” Tandi Dorji, TCB chairman and the country’s foreign minister, said in a statement.


According to authorities Bhutan had revised standards for service providers, such as hotels, guides, tour operators, and drivers.

Tourism employs 50,000 people and contributed an annual average of about $84 million in the three years before the pandemic in direct foreign exchange.