Tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives traveling to Bhutan, will now have to pay ₹1,200 ($17) daily as ‘sustainable development fee’ from July 2020, in order to help the government deal with the spike in tourism.

This decision was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday as a ‘Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan’ 2020. 

This fee is definitely lower than the $65 charged to other foreign tourists, who also have to cough up a compulsory flat “cover charge” of $250 per day.

Under the new policy, kids under the age of 5 from India, Maldives and Bangladesh will not have to pay the levy fee but children aged between 6 and 13 years will be charged ₹600.

In an interview with The Hindu, Dorji Dhradul, Bhutan’s Tourism Council Director said:

The idea of the SDF was to provide better facilities for regional tourists. The levy of SDF to regional tourists will help in ensuring an exclusive experience to all tourists which is the intent of our tourism policy of high value, low volume. 

In 2018, there was a 10% spike in the tourism as compared to 2017. At that time, Bhutan received about 200,000 visitors from regional countries like India, Maldives and Bangladesh.

And, while this is a good thing, local officials also fear that Bhutan’s unique Himalayan kingdom’s cherished ecology might be compromised as more and more tourists are coming in, which is why, this new policy has been put in place. 

People on social media also agree with the Bhutanese government and their new tourism policy that is aimed at preserving the environment, culture and heritage. 

Bhutan definitely understands the importance of preserving the ecology and the environment.