Bhutan lowers $200-a-night tourism tax for visitors who stay for longer

Bhutan’s Great Buddha Dordenma statue near Thimphu (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Bhutan’s Great Buddha Dordenma statue near Thimphu (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Bhutan is set to lower its substantial tourism tax for visitors who stay longer than four nights.

The move is being taken to attract more tourists to the South Asian country and aid visitor number recovery following the pandemic.

The destination is known for having some of the highest fees for holidaymakers, charging a $200-a-night (£157) Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) per visitor for the privilege of staying there since its reopening in 2022 after two years of Covid shutdown.

Prior to this, the fee had been set at a still-hefty $65pp (£51) per night for the last three decades.

Designed to deter budget travellers and attract wealthier visitors who care about the environment, the money from the SDF is used to protect Bhutan’s natural landscapes and offset tourists’ carbon footprints.

However, under the new rules, travellers who opt to stay longer will pay less. From June until the end of 2024, tourists who are there for four days can stay an additional four days without paying further daily fees. Those who stay for 12 days can remain for a full month without paying any extra SDF.

This means travellers who stay for eight days will pay $800 (£627), a saving of $800; month-long visitors will pay $2,400 (£1,880), saving around $3,600 (£2,820).

“If more tourists stay longer in Bhutan tourism can help our economy to grow faster,” said Mr Dorji Dhradhul, director-general of the Department of Tourism, reports The Straits Times.

The discount only applies to tourists who pay in US dollars, rather than rupees.

Long-term, the goal is to raise the contribution of tourism to Bhutan’s economy from 5 per cent to 20 per cent, according to Mr Dhradhul.

In the short-term, the country is on track to achieve its ambition of welcoming 86,000 visitors by the end of the year, having already hosted more than 47,000 tourists since January.