Eastern and southern dzongkhags are preparing to welcome tourists as the country is scheduled to reopen its borders to tourists on September 23.

In addition to the Phuentsholing gate, the government will open Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu and Samtse gates as new entry and exit points for tourists, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

He said that tourists would be allowed to travel to any place after paying the SDF except for some places that are being identified. “We are preparing a list of places tourists will not have access to,” he said.

The TCB is marking areas within which tourists can enter without paying SDF. Currently, tourists who come to border towns return on the same day.

However, the foreign minister said that TCB was considering allowing tourists to stay overnight at the border towns without paying SDF. This, officials said, would boost businesses in the border towns.

The TCB chairperson said that the required infrastructures for facilitating the entry of tourists at the gate were already in place and other facilities, if required, would be put in place before the country reopens for tourism.

However, the TCB chairperson said that the government would not defer the implementation of SDF. “The question of deferring the implementation of SDF would not arise as the tourism levy Bill is an Act passed by Parliament,” he said.

Dr Tandi Dorji said that even international tourists would be allowed to enter through the new entry points. Road conditions, he said, were “good” in most of the places and that the country was ready to welcome tourists.