Bhutan has introduced a series of new incentives and policy measures aimed at boosting its tourism sector, including a 50 percent reduction in the daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), which is a key component of its commitment to high value, low volume tourism. The SDF has been reduced to $100 per person per night from the previous $200 per person per night and will be in effect until September 2027. This change acknowledges the vital role of the tourism sector in creating jobs, earning foreign exchange, stimulating ancillary industries, contributing to economic growth, and funding environmental, social, and infrastructure projects.
The new incentives and measures include:
- A 50 percent reduction in the SDF for U.S. dollar-paying tourists, resulting in an effective SDF of $100 per person per night.
- A 50 percent reduction in the SDF for U.S. dollar-paying children aged six to 12, resulting in an effective SDF of $50 per person per night. Children under six can visit Bhutan without paying any SDF.
- The continuation of the 24-hour SDF waiver for tourists staying in border towns.
These incentives will take effect from September 1, 2023, and remain in place for four years until August 31, 2027. The previous incentives aimed at encouraging longer stays have been replaced by this new 50 percent reduction.
Furthermore, guests who have already paid the SDF for their upcoming visit to Bhutan are eligible for refunds on any excess SDF amounts paid.
It’s important to note that the funds generated from the SDF support various projects in Bhutan, including free healthcare and education, sustainability and conservation initiatives, cultural preservation, infrastructure upgrades, youth development programs, and more. Since January 2023, Bhutan has already welcomed nearly 60,000 guests, reaching the predicted arrivals for the entire year. It is anticipated that Bhutan’s tourism numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
Visitors can pay the SDF when applying for their visas on the Department of Tourism’s website, www.bhutan.travel/visa. These changes are part of Bhutan’s ongoing efforts to balance its tourism industry with the preservation of its unique culture and environment.