When Bhutan reopened to travellers in the final quarter of 2022, it returned with a 'transformative' sustainability scheme.
The Buddhist Kingdom has long been praised for its strong stance on sustainability, but the government wanted to heighten its efforts when they welcomed back international travellers in September 2022.
As part of its refreshed tourism model, Bhutan announced an increase to its tourism tax – known as Sustainable Development Fee (SDF). Visitors to the country are now required to pay 200 USD per person, per night – more than triple what it once was.
The funds raised from the SDF go towards protecting and preserving the country’s landscape, communities and heritage, with a percentage being put into sustainability projects, such as tackling climate change.
However, the country has now introduced several incentives to encourage visitors to not only visit, but extend their stay and take time exploring Bhutan’s 20 provinces.
From the 1 June 2023 until 31 December 2024, those who pay for a set number of nights will then be able to stay for an additional several nights without paying the daily fee.
There are currently three options travellers can choose from:
4 + 4: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per night, per person, for four nights, and receive up to four additional nights without the daily levy.
7 + 7: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per night, per person, for seven nights, and receive up to seven additional nights without the daily levy.
12 + 18: Pay the SDF USD 200 per night per person, for twelve nights, and receive up to eighteen additional nights without the daily levy.
When your trip comes to an end, the incentives will then ‘reset’. You can work out how much SDF you will need to pay by using this online calculator.
This new initiative aims to help travellers slow down and make the most of their Bhutanese adventure, beyond the tourist hot spots. Those who enjoy hiking can spend their days exploring on foot, with the newly restored Trans Bhutan Trail or the famous Snowman Trek being popular options. Alternatively, culture seekers can plan their stay around the country’s many festivals, or get to know the locals by venturing into the highlands and meeting remote communities.
Visitors are also given the opportunity to plant a tree and make a meaningful contribution towards Bhutan’s target of planting one million new trees, helping to maintain the country’s carbon-negative status.
Dorji Dhradhul, Director General of Bhutan’s Department of Tourism said: “We are delighted to welcome guests to share in the wonder and wilderness of Bhutan”.
“These incentives are an opportunity for our friends from around the world to experience more, travel further, and stay longer – and by doing so, to actively participate in progress and preservation that benefits our citizens and the wider world.
He concluded: “We hope that with these incentives, together with the recent reduction in the monument fees and the 24-hour SDF waiver for border towns, Bhutan will be a more accessible destination for a wider range of guests”.
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