Tourists to pay entry fee for monuments in Bhutan

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - The entry fee system for tourists visiting significant places, which was started in Thimphu and Paro, will expand to other districts according to the Dratshang Lhentshog (Council for Religious Affairs).

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 (US$ 4.61) to visit the Tashichhodzong in Thimphu.
The entrance fee requirement is already in place at the National Memorial Choeten (Stupa) in Thimphu and Taktshang monastery (Tiger’s Nest) at Paro. It is Nu 300 (US$ 4.61) for the Memorial Choeten and Nu 500 (US$ 7.69) for Taktshang.
Built in 1974 to honor the memory of His Majesty the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the memorial choeten today stands as one of the most visible landmarks in the capital city of Thimphu.
Taktshang monastery, which clings to a cliff, 3,120 meters above the sea level on the side of the upper Paro valley, was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rinpoche (Lotus-Born Buddhist master) meditated in the 8th century A.D. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for more then three years in order to subdue evil demons residing within the area.
The visitors will have to trek uphill for about two to three hours through beautiful shady pine forests to the sacred site of the Tiger’s Nest, a Buddhist temple.
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 visit- ing 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 Gross National Happiness (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 US$ 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 districts administrators, TCB director and the home secretary, will monitor the fee collected by TCB.
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.