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MoICE revokes approval given to Amen Tours and Treks

To bring tourists at the old SDF rate

Dechen Dolkar 

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE) has revoked the approval granted to Amen Bhutan Tours and Treks to bring in around 1,600 tourists at the old Sustainable Development Rate (SDF) on April 29.

MoICE Minister Karma Dorji said that the ministry revoked the approval following the formal complaint letter received from the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) supported by formal complaints received from Foreign Travel Agents to ABTO and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The ministry conveyed to Amen Bhutan Tours and Treks that the approval to operate the tour program by chartering 13 flights at the old SDF rate is revoked and will stand cancelled with immediate effect.

Members of ABTO wrote to the ministry on April 24, stating that many foreign tour operators lodged formal and informal complaints about differentiated rates that Amen Tours and Treks was marketing after the approval at the old SDF rate.

The association stated that it was an unfair advantage and that select tour operators were leveraging on the unfair discounts to actively market and steal foreign travel agents.

The association stated that they have also compiled complaints where tour operators have lost their clients and tour agents due to price differences and the credibility of Bhutan as a destination.

In the earlier interview, Lyonpo Karma Dorji said that the government would revoke the approval if they receive a written complaint from tour operators about stealing other agents’ tourists.

The letter also stated that the clarification that Amen has provided on the “breach of condition” on April 28, 2023, further establishes tourists who were to come in 13 chartered flights were marketed after the approval and on the old SDF rate.

The CEO of Amen Bhutan Tours and Treks, Lhakpa Tshering, said that the company also brought in 126 tourists in chartered flight at the new SDF rate of USD 200 per night from Vietnam on April 29.

“Since the marketing was already done and the visit a confirmed, we will now bring tourists at USD 200 a day,” the CEO said.

However, he said that they have not confirmed when the tourists will come and visit.

Amen Tours and Treks was supposed to charter three flights each from Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, and two each from China and South Korea.

It was also learnt that erstwhile TCB suspended Amen licence for one year for undercutting issue in 2019.

The government approved three operators, Amen Bhutan Tours, Bhutan Raewa Travels, and Happiness Kingdom to bring in more than 3,000 tourists at the old SDF rate even after passing the deadline to apply for the old SDF rate.

Happiness Kingdom has already brought in tourists in December 2022 and January this year and Raewa Bhutan Tours is yet to bring the tourists.