The Government of Bhutan on Wednesday ended the decades old practice of permitting free entry to Indian tourists and those from Bangladesh and Maldives. The tourists will not have to shell out US $17 to enter Bhutan.
This amount which is almost INR 1200 will be part of the Sustainable Development Fee, which will help the government deal with the surge in the number of tourists.
However, this is a small amount compared to the US $65 levied on tourists from other nations who are also charged an additional flat rate of US $250 per day.
The authorities have clarified that this fee will not be levied on those traveling to the Eastern districts of the nation which constitute a large chunk of 11/20 districts.
Indian tourists mostly prefer to visit the more developed western districts and will now have to pay a fee to visit these districts.
Bhutan has in the past expressed its keen interest to focus on sustainable development including that in the tourist sector.
The authorities had informed the Indian side of this development back in November 2019 itself.
Observers in the tourism industry have pointed out that this is a step in the right direction and there is a desperate need for India to emulate a similar model and regulate the tourist inflow into the hill stations which are facing the brunt of uncontrolled tourist inflow.
They point to the solid waste pollution in the Himalayan rivers and the hills which have affected the region and also the fact that Shimla faced a water shortage crisis in 2018.
The capital of Himachal Pradesh faced a massive water crisis in 2018.
Anirudh Sivan, a researcher and an observer of the tourism sector believes that this move will benefit Bhutan where the issue of asset price bubbles has caused resentment against tourists and as far as India is concerned, he is of the opinion that educating the stakeholders including the tourists themselves is the need of the hour. He said: “regulating the entry of tourists will kill the sector that often is the sole livelihood of those living in certain regions in the country”.