The Bhutan government has decided to relax its quarantine requirements for foreign visitors with the decline in Covid-19 cases, a move that stakeholders of the tourism industry here have welcomed.
A communiqué issued by the Prime Minister’s office of Bhutan says that from April 25, international travellers who are fully vaccinated will five days in quarantine and those not will be quarantined for 10 days.
“The decision, we feel, will encourage international tourists, especially Indians, to start visiting Bhutan again. It can help improve the tourism industry in Bhutan and north Bengal. Many tourists want to stay for five days secluded in serene environs. Their plan will match with this new quarantine period,” said Tanmoy Goswami, who runs a travel house in Siliguri.
Initially, Bhutan had restricted the entry of foreign travellers when Covid 19 hit the region. In due course, the Bhutan government had allowed international tourists but with a two-week quarantine for those vaccinated and three-week quarantine for those who had not. But this was deemed too long.
Hardly any Indian tourist wanted to visit Bhutan and spend a minimum of two weeks in quarantine over there.
The principal entry point for tourists entering Bhutan from India is Phuentsholing, the town that sits on the other side of Jaigaon that is located in north Bengal’s Alipurduar district.
“Because of the pandemic, a number of travel houses in north Bengal suffered losses as inflow of tourists to Bhutan had stopped. We hope this new relaxation helps us,” said a tour operator based in Siliguri.
Among the total foreign tourists who visit Bhutan, close to 70 per cent are Indians. The quarantine relaxation will also help hotel owners based in Jaigaon, opined local traders.
This is because a large section of Indian tourists who visit Bhutan by road stay in Jaigaon for one or two days during their trip. Altogether, there are close to 50 hotels in and around Jaigaon.
“It has been almost two years now entry of people has stopped in Bhutan because of the pandemic. Most of these hotels had closed down as the owners were finding it tough to run their properties. We are hopeful that the new relaxation, which will be effective from next month, can help in the revival of the hospitality industry in Jaigaon,” said a trader of the border town.
Recently, Bhutan imposed a sustainable development fee (SDF) of Rs 1,200 per day for tourists visiting the country from India, Bangladesh and Maldives.
For tourists from other countries, it is necessary to pay SDF of 65 US dollars per day.