Bhutan suspends entry of tourist for two weeks starting 6th March 2020.

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Free Wi-Fi for passengers in Paro airport

To facilitate passengers who were travelling, Bhutan Tele-com (BT) began providing free Wi-Fi at the departure termi-nal of the Drukair airport for about two months now.

Director at Department of Aviation and Transport, Karma Wangchuk said that this service was enabled for users. “These services are one of the key components in run-ning an international airport. These services are not luxury but have become a necessity in every international airport.”

He said that with time technology changes, which makes the latest developments anywhere possible. “Mobile phone is a key component for every traveller. Whenever we are out travelling, we check our emails, hotel bookings, ticketing everything through mobile. So to be able to do that, free Wi-Fi is important in an airport. The charging sta-tion is also equally important.”

BT’s General Manager for marketing, Penjore said it was not planned to coincide with the election. “It was started about a couple months ago actually.”

He said that BT was look-ing at the bigger picture, which is in the best interest of the country. “BT also aims to cre-ate customer value. We will look into exploring covering places like hospitals although there is no concrete plan at the moment.”

Providing these services was discussed about eight months ago, he said.

Karma Wangchuk said that regarding the charging station; BT was the first one providing the service at the moment. “Regarding free Wi-Fi, both BT and Tashi Cell had provided it few times. But now BT had come in full force and had been covering the whole departure terminal building.”

He said additional services would portray a good image of the country. “To facilitate pas-sengers, we have done away with some procedures of filling forms.”

He said that the organisa-tion was working with the air-lines and immigration for au-tomatic check-in and checkout. “However, these are all subject to the availability of budget. Whatever limited resources we have, we are trying to use in the best possible manner.”

There are about 10 charg-ing points and four USB cable connections.

One access point could handle a maximum of about 300 passengers. There are four access points.

To use the Wi-Fi, a passen-ger or user needs to log in their personal details such as name, nationality, and mobile num-ber among others. To provide opportunity for other users to avail the service, a user would get logged out of the Wi-Fi after an hour.

Source: Kuensel dated 17/10/2018

15th February 2018

Notification on the waiver of Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) in the Eastern circuit

The Tourism Council of Bhutan would like to inform all tour operators that the waiver of Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for tourists visiting the six eastern districts (Mongar, Samdrup Jongkhar, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Tashigang and Pemagatshel) has been endorsed. The waiver will come into effect from 16th November 2017.

Henceforth, no SDF will be applicable for the tourists visiting the above six Dzongkhangs. Please note that strict verification will be carried out as per the approved guideline attached here.

The tour operators who have already operated groups in the above six districts from 16th November 2017 may contact TCB to process for refund of SDF.

Entry fee for Monuments

The entry fee system for tourists visiting significant places, which was started in Thimphu and Paro, will expand to other dzongkhags according to the Dratshang Lhentshog.

Last year, the Dratshang Lhentshog and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) notified that tourists, who do not pay the daily tariff, would need to buy an entrance ticket worth Nu 300 to visit the Tashichhodzong in Thimphu.

The entrance fee requirement is already in place at the Memorial Choeten in Thimphu and Taktsang at Paro. It is Nu 300 for the Memorial Choeten and Nu 500 for Taktsang.

Dratshang Lhentshog secretary, Karma Tsering Namgyal said, that countries charge for monuments but Bhutan hasn’t done so until recently. He said that there had been problems related to overcrowding at commonly visited places because there are no tour guides for non-tariff paying tourists. “The tourists paying high tariff visiting Bhutan do not receive the facilities they deserve,” he said.

The initiative is aimed at giving better quality service for the benefit of tourists visiting Bhutan.

Karma Tsering Namgyal said that tourists after paying the entry fee are led by tour guides from the assigned place. He said that with proper guides, tourists would not enter restricted areas or break from the group causing overcrowding. “The government is pursuing a project that is in line with the GNH principle by making sure that our visitors have a very good experience with the country,” he said.

TCB stated that tourists paying a daily tariff of USD 200/250 and children below 7 are exempted from paying entrance fee. There will be 50 percent deduction for student tourists upon production of the student ID card.

Counters are made available at the chosen places to provide entry tickets. Karma Tsering Namgyal said that the fee is subject to revision.

The collected fees will be used to pay tour guides. The money will also be used in future for improving facilities such as restrooms, sheds and canteens at the sacred places.

An audit committee comprising of the information and communications secretary, the Chief of police, Dratshang Lhentshog secretary, concerned dzongdags, TCB director and the home secretary, will monitor the fee collected by TCB.

Meanwhile, the Dratshang Lhentshog secretary clarified that there was no instruction from their office asking visitors to wear the national dress during the prayer recitation that was held recently at the Memorial Choeten. The prayer recitation was held from June 29 to July 3, to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche.

In 2016, a total of 209, 570 tourists including regional and international visited Bhutan. Tourist arrivals increased to 35 percent last year, compared to the previous high of 16 percent in 2015. This was the highest growth percentage in the last five years, according to the recently released Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2016.

Source: Kuensel

Announcement for Regional Online Permit System

Dear Tour Operators,

This is in continuation to the announcement on Launch of Regional Online Permit System (New Tashel System). If you have already registered on the system you can login using the username and password that you have created, else please visit and register your company on the system.

The system will be implemented on trial with effect from 26th January 2017 for a period of 3 months. The system will facilitate the online processing of permits for regional tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB certified hotels to avail permit clearances and route permits for their guests ahead of arrival in Bhutan similar to international tourists.

Please kindly note the following important information while applying for Regional Permit:
1. Only passport will be honored as identification document in the online system.
2. Passports should be valid and clearly visible.
3. During the trial period TCB and DoI will facilitate 150 applications per day through the online system.
4. The facility will be applicable for entry from Paro and Phuntsholing.

It is hoped that through this facility better quality service can be provided to the guests from the region and that their experience in Bhutan is enhanced.

For further information, please contact ICT section, TCB

*Please note: Tourists are required to provide their Biometric Information at the entry point.
*Regional Tourists includes: Bangladeshi, Maldevian and Indian Nationals.

Thank you

Bhutan – EU relations beyond development cooperation

The Members of the European Parliament (MEP) delegation launched a Euro 2.5 million (M) European Union Programme to support civil society in Bhutan yesterday in Thimphu.

To be implemented by Helvetas, the project aims at improving the environment and operational capacity for civil society engagement in sustainable development and good governance by promoting an inclusive approach to strengthen civil society actors.

This project, according to Ambassador of European Union (EU) to Bhutan, Tomasz Kozlowski, who was also a part of the European Parliament delegation, is one of the first components under the three major agreements that the EU and Bhutan signed this year to honour the implementation of the Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020.

Through the MIP, the EU assists Bhutan in its goal of achieving self-reliance and inclusive socio-economic development as identified in its 11th Five-Year Plan.

“We are supporting civil society and community based organisations because we think it is an important element of any democratic society,” Ambassador Kozlowski said. The project, which will cover all 20 dzongkhags is expected to benefit about 15,000 people, including poor and vulnerable group at the grassroots.

The other component is capacity development for local governments and fiscal decentralisation. “One of the objectives of your government is decentralisation of financial management and the empowerment of local governments,” the EU Ambassador told Kuensel. “That’s why we provided some financial resources to the government to promote fiscal decentralisation, capacity building for civil society and public finance management.”

The EU is also supporting sustainable agriculture and forestry. The ambassador said they provide resources for food security, employment capacities and climate related issues. “We provide some support for trade related issues to help Bhutan increase or boost its export capacities and help Bhutan in marketing its products abroad,” he said.

Including the new planned trade project for Euro 4M, the EU’s total support to Bhutan stands at Euro 48M.

Until 2014, the EU provided some assistance to Bhutan through specific projects in agriculture and education. “But we came into conclusion that the Bhutanese government has developed its own capacities, its own plans for social and economic development, we changed our approach and now we provide assistance directly to the government budget,” ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski said.

He said they are convinced that Bhutan has capacities and a strong political will to utilise their assistance in a proper way. “Our intentions concerning development cooperation and Bhutanese government’s plans coincide,” he said.

Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski however said that their relationship with Bhutan is not limited to development cooperation. He said that Bhutan is a respected country with its own foreign policy and have a lot of similarities between the EU and Bhutan in certain fields like promotion of human rights and climate related issues.

Bhutan signed the Paris Agreement, which the Parliament recently ratified. At the end of 2015, the ambassador said that an agreement between EU and Bhutan for cooperation on issues related to climate change was signed. “Bhutan is successful in developing its policy of climate change and preservation of environment. That’s why Bhutan is a very good partner for us in such fields,” he said.

In 2014, Bhutan decided to contribute military officers to the UN peacekeeping operations. “This is again an issue on which we can cooperate, are cooperating and will continue to cooperate,” the ambassador said. “It means that in the international organisations and in the international arena, EU and Bhutan have very similar views on certain issues, that’s why we are cooperating. I would say we respect Bhutan’s support.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the EU and Bhutan have enjoyed friendly relations since its establishment of diplomatic relations some 37 years ago. “Our relations have only grown from strength to strength because of the EU support. We have been able to establish democracy and that too at the grassroots level. Our local government is as vibrant as ever and effective,” Lyonchhen said during the reception hosted to celebrate “Europe Day” on May 24.

“But all other important trappings of democracy are growing in Bhutan. Be it with decentralisation or checks and balances between the three arms of the government or check and balances offered by the Constitutional bodies or indeed the vibrant media,” he said. “In all these, EU has played a part and I would like to thank you for it.”

While in Bhutan from May 23 to 26, the delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia participated in the 6th inter-parliamentary dialogue with the National Assembly. Delegation leader Jean Lambert said the visit has helped deepen the MEPs’ knowledge of the country, including political and social developments, assess and exchange views on cooperation between Bhutan and the EU and the impact of EU support to Bhutan.

Source: Kuensel