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International relations

Bhutan tourism stung by new fees on visitors from India

Measure aims to curb overcrowding, but threatens hotel sector

Pungthang Dewa Chhenbi Phodrang in the western district of Punakha, 75 km from Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is popular with regional tourists. (Photo by Phuntsho Wangdi)

THIMPHU -- The tiny kingdom of Bhutan, wedged between India and China, will halt free entry of regional tourists in order to standardize tourism policy, provide better services, and keep Bhutan as an exclusive high-end destination.

Starting in July, regional tourists -- travelers from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives -- will have to pay a daily sustainable development fee, or SDF, of 1,200 ngultrum ($16.8) a person a night, which is 25% of the $65 a day levied on non-regional arrivals.

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