The tourism levy exemption for the eastern circuit shall expire by December 31, 2020
An international leisure tourist visiting eastern circuit will be exempted from the payment of applicable tourism levy or Sustainable Development Fee of US$ 65 per night halt for the duration of their stay in the country.
This is according to the Tourism Levy Exemption Bill (TLEB) of Bhutan 2017 that was passed by the National Assembly last Thursday to boost tourism in the six eastern districts of the country.
The ‘eastern circuit’ includes the six eastern districts of Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel, and Samdrup Jongkhar, while an international leisure tourist means nationals of countries other than Bangladesh, Maldives and India who are here in the country for holiday and leisure.
The Bill was reportedly envisioned given the need for targeted intervention to improve tourism growth in eastern Dzongkhags and incentivize international leisure tourist through exemption of tourism levy. The Bill would apply to international leisure tourist travelling to the eastern circuit and the tourism levy exemption for the eastern circuit shall expire by December 31, 2020.
According to the TLEB, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) shall be the competent authority to verify and ensure proper compliance as per this Act, review and recommend the revision of the tourism levy as per the Law, besides having to submit a bi-annual report on the tourism levy exemption to the Ministry of Finance.
“The TCB shall frame rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act,” states the TLEB. Further, it is stated that TCB should be provided information by relevant agency regarding tourist entering to and exiting from eastern circuit to facilitate monitoring and verification. “The TCB certified accommodation providers or any other tourism service providers shall provide or facilitate access to document or information required by TCB for monitoring and verification,” states the Bill.
The Bill also mentions that an international leisure tourist failing to visit eastern circuit due to force majeure shall be exempted from the payment of tourism levy. Force majeure has been described as an event that is beyond the control mainly caused by natural calamities including but not limited to road blocks, cancellation of flights, etc. as a result of which travel itinerary cannot be followed.
Further, the Bill outlines availing the exemption in contravention to the purpose mentioned in the Act, failing to pass the exemption benefit to international leisure tourist, and failing to submit the required supporting document or submitting false document as offenses for which penalties range from having to pay tourism levy for the exempted duration of the stay and fines as per the rules and regulations.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Levy Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2017 was passed by the National Assembly with 37 “Yes” votes, two“ No” Votes, and one member abstaining from voting.
Staff Reporter from Thimphu