The Kingdom of Bhutan has reopened its borders to international guests with a new tourism strategy in place that focuses on infrastructure and services, tourists’ travel experiences, and environmental impact to maintain carbon-neutral tourism.
The country will raise its Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) from US$65 to US$200 per person per night, which will go towards projects that support Bhutan’s economic, social, environmental, and cultural development. The fees raised will fund national investment in programmes that preserve Bhutan’s cultural traditions, sustainability projects, infrastructure upgrades and opportunities for young people as well as free healthcare and education for all. Some of the SDF funds, for example, will go towards offsetting the carbon footprint of visitors by planting trees, upskilling workers in the tourism sector, cleaning and maintaining trails, reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and electrifying Bhutan’s transportation sector.
As a country that is vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as melting glaciers and floods, Bhutan will also be stepping up its efforts to maintain its status as one of only a handful of carbon-negative countries in the world. Last year, Bhutan sequestered 9.4 million tonnes of carbon against its emission capacity of 3.8 million tonnes.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Bhutan was busy upgrading roads, trails, temples and monuments around the country, and enhancing the standards and certification process for tourism service providers such as hotels, guides, tour operators and drivers. In addition, employees across the tourism industry participated in upskilling programmes to focus on enhancing service quality.
As for elevating guest experiences, Bhutan is focusing on quality of services and the cleanliness and accessibility of its infrastructure by limiting the number of people who visit its sacred sites and the cars on its roads. They also plan to work with tourism partners to continue to upgrade the itineraries that guests can experience in the country to help showcase the best of Bhutan.