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Hoteliers in bordering towns hit hard by SDF

โ€ฆ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐‘บ๐‘ซ๐‘ญ ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’“๐’†๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’ ๐’•๐’๐’–๐’“๐’Š๐’”๐’•, ๐’‰๐’๐’•๐’†๐’๐’Š๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’๐’“๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’๐’˜๐’๐’” ๐’‚๐’“๐’† ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’‰๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’š ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’…๐’†๐’„๐’Š๐’”๐’Š๐’๐’

Tenzin Lhaden

Regional tourists and business personals who visit Bhutan prefer to stay across the border hotels owing to Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of Nu. 1200 per night which they have to pay if they stayed in Bhutan. With opening of international border on September 23, 2022 the new SDF became applicable for regional tourist from India.

Hoteliers along the international border are facing a significant decline in their businesses with the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) imposed on regional tourists.

Pema Lama, CEO of Hotel Kuku Grand, Gelephu said, โ€œWe used to have regional tourists from places such as Assam and Guwahati. There used to be around 1000 tourist in a month. But now, with imposition of SDF, we have lost more than 50 percent of our tourists staying in the hotels. Therefore, imposition of SDF has really affected our businessesโ€.

โ€œPhuentsholing being a border town, we mostly receive regional tourists from Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Siliguriโ€, said Tila Ghalley, manager at Alem Hotel and Resort. She said that now they are barely receiving any guest. On the other hand, the tourist who makes hotel booking spend less number of nights in Phuentsholing unlike before when SDF was not imposed.

At least in a month of October, they had more than 100 tourist bookings for the hotel. For November month, 30 tourists and December, only 5 tourists have made bookings with them. There has been a steady decline in the hotel bookings.

โ€œWe used to receive 300 to 500 tourists each month when SDF was not imposed. Now, tourists stay across the border for the night to save SDF,โ€ she added.

In the same vein, Namgay Wangchuk, manager at Lhaki Hotel said that they are losing edge over hotels across the border.

โ€œThere is no hotel in Jaigaon like the accommodations in Phuentsholing. So every guest used to come and stay overnight in Phuentsholing. Even if the tourist reaches here at 11 am to 12 noon, they will process their permit, stay overnight in Phuentsholing and move to their destination the following day. Presently, even if they reach at 4 pm or 5 pm, they process permit and donโ€™t halt night here rather they have started to stay overnight in Jaigaon,โ€ he said.

He further added that when it comes to SDF, especially in border towns like Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu, it hampers the business. For instance, since Jaigaon is just one step away from Phuentsholing with many hotels available there however, Phuentsholing may offer better hotels with good ambience at competitive rates yet, they prefer to stay in Jaigaon just to save SDF.

โ€œFor tourist landing in Paro International Airport, they have no other choice than to stay hotels in the country. In this way, hotels in Paro may not be encountering significant decline in the business like the hotels in Phuentsholing,โ€ he asserted.

โ€œOnly the locals who come for a vacation and some tourist guide who come to receive there guest stay overnight in the hotelโ€, said Kentsho, the owner of Centennial Hotel.

There is a growing worry among the hoteliers in Phuentsholing. โ€œTourist making booking came down to 5- 10 percent while comparing after the imposition of SDF,โ€ said Ugyen, the representative of Gadhen Hotel.

Ram Dorji Tamang, owner of Book Bhutan Tour Agency who handles regional tourists lamented the plight of hoteliers in Phuentsholing attributing it to tourists saving SDF of Nu 1200. โ€œBefore, when I receive tourist from Jaigaon, they spend at least a night in Phuentsholing because they say it is peaceful in Phuentsholing but now, due to SDF imposed, they stay in Jaigaon. So, I feel it is affecting the hoteliers here,โ€ he said.

โ€œHoteliers in Phuentsholing have submitted written request to the government few months back to look in the matter, Until now, no decision has come from the governmentโ€, said Karma Phuntsho, Director, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan.

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