Bhutan Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi.

Bhutan is planning to charge tourists from countries like India, Bangladesh and Maldives who are classified as ‘regional tourists’ in the country.

A new draft tourism policy in this regard is likely to be passed by Bhutanese cabinet next month.

The policy was discussed by Bhutan foreign minister Tandi Dorji with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar in Delhi on Monday.

According to the draft prepared by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), the new charges have been necessitated due to the large increase in the number of regional tourists visiting the Himalayan nation, especially from India.

Regional tourists were earlier able to come to come to Bhutan without visas and were exempted from charges.

According to the new policy, however, they would be charged a Sustainable Development Fee, as well as a permit processing fee.

Apart from regional tourists, people who come to Bhutan had to pay $250 per day per person.

“The essence of our “High Value, Low Impact” policy (also called the “High value, low volume” policy) is that we will monitor our tourist arrivals depending on our capacity to cater to them,” director-general of TCB Dorji Dhradhul told The Hindu in a recent interview.

“Over the last few years the number of tourists has been increasing at a really rapid rate, growing about 10 times in the past decade, and this policy was under threat,” he added.

In 2017, around 170,000 regional tourists visited Bhutan, which increased to 202,290 in 2018 — almost three times that of international tourists.

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