The main focus of the Tourism Levy Bill (2020) is on the value, to redefine the existing tourism policy of ‘High Value, Low Impact’, said the government.
Telling that the tourism industry must benefit all the Bhutanese people, and that the high value definition has become redundant, the government proposed to increase the Sustainable Development Fund of USD 65 to USD 200.
SDF 65 had been instituted in 1991, and so far, the government has not raised the SDF, and the Minimum Daily Package Rate of USD 200 and USD 250 has been slashed, this is expected to create flexible itineraries for tourists, and that tour operators will not have to adhere to a fixed package tour.
In the light of the new Tourism Levy Act, a tourist who had paid and confirmed the tour under the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan (2020) on or before June 20, 2022 shall continue to benefit subject to conditions imposed under Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan and Rules thereof.
According to the Tourism Levy Act of Bhutan (2022), the tourism levy may be revised by the Competent Authority from time to time.
Also under the new Act, there are various exemptions or concessionary levy rate on the applicable SDF fee such as exemption for day tourist who do not travel beyond the first designated point, exemption for child of five years and below, concessionary levy rate of 50 percent for child between 6-12 years, and other exemptions or concessionary levy rate as may be considered necessary.
The proposal of the Economic and Finance Committee to delay the implementation did not get through.
Tour operators in the country had requested the government to consider at least six months to one year time period prior to implementing the new tourism policy. They also proposed for possible reduction of proposed SDF to a reasonable amount and thereby implement on a phase-wise manner so as to minimize the impact and maximize the benefit for the greater good of tourism in Bhutan.
The tour operator also discussed with NA’s Economic and Finance Committee also raised concern on existing confirmed group postponed due to pandemic, future confirmed booking and related enquiries that are likely to be impacted as a result of such policy changes and its immediate implementation.
The Committee also sought tentative arrival numbers so that the policy makers will be in a better position to deliberate and decide on the matter.
A total of 36 voted ‘Yes’ for the Tourism Levy Bill (2022) and the bill will be forwarded to the National Council.
The Tourism Levy Bill (2022) is a money bill, and it is considered implemented on the day it was tabled on June 20.