Bhutan Builds Tourism on Foun­da­tion of ‘Na­tional Hap­pi­ness’

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

To­day (Nov. 11) is the 60th birth­day of Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the man who first con­ceived of the idea of mea­sur­ing the suc­cess of gov­er­nance with a “Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness” stan­dard. The king’s birth­day helped in­spire the Tourism Coun­cil of Bhutan (TCB) to de­clare next year “Visit Bhutan 2015.”

This king of­fers plenty to cel­e­brate al­low­ing for a peace­ful trans­fer­ence to a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy in 2008 and pre­sid­ing over the cre­ation of the world’s only con­sti­tu­tion that in­cludes en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in its DNA, es­tab­lish­ing that at least 60 per­cent of Bhutan be cov­ered in for­est.

The year will see a bounty of fes­ti­vals, events and ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the des­ti­na­tion to com­mem­o­rate the year. Among the spe­cial events will be the host­ing of the Pa­cific Asia Travel As­so­ci­a­tion’s up­com­ing Ad­ven­ture Travel and Re­spon­si­ble Tourism Con­fer­ence and Mart 2015 (Feb. 4 to 6). The con­fer­ence’s “Ex­plore Beyond Tourism – Cel­e­brate Hap­pi­ness” theme is a not so sub­tle tip of the hat to the “Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness” pol­icy.

Held in Thimphu, the Bhutanese cap­i­tal, the event is a three-day event bring­ing to­gether ad­ven­ture tourism pro­fes­sion­als to ad­dress is­sues fac­ing the ad­ven­ture travel as well as re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able tourism. Bhutan, which last hosted the show in 2012, is an ideal lo­ca­tion to dis­cuss all of th­ese is­sues.

Bhutan, maybe the only coun­try in the world that lim­its the num­ber of tourists it lets in, im­poses a $250 daily min­i­mum on ex­pen­di­tures for each vis­it­ing tourist. Vis­i­tors must en­ter the coun­try on li­censed tour pack­ages. Re­turn­ing vis­i­tors mostly re­port that it’s easy to spend the re­quired $250 per diem as the ho­tels eat up most of it.

Cur­rently, the king­dom re­ceives around 100,000 an­nual vis­i­tors, some 60 per­cent of them from In­dia. Nepal, by con­trast re­ceived 800,000 in 2013. The Bhutanese are strug­gling to find a bal­ance be­tween tourism in­come to help erad­i­cate the coun­try’s chronic un­em­ploy­ment prob­lems with­out chang­ing the coun­try’s very tra­di­tional way of life.

A re­port from the UNWTO on Ad­ven­ture Tourism, pub­lished jointly with theAd­ven­ture Travel Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, cites the close relation be­tween ad­ven­ture tourism and re­spon­si­ble tourism. For that rea­son the UNWTO sees ad­ven­ture tourism as a pro­gres­sive form of tourism. “With care­ful and re­spon­si­ble man­age­ment, ad­ven­ture tourism of­fers ef­fec­tive de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to coun­tries look­ing for new and sus­tain­able sources of growth,” said UNWTO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Taleb Ri­fai.

Best Western In­ter­na­tional is build­ing its first Bhutanese ho­tel in Thimphu. The 41-room ho­tel is sched­uled to open in mid-2015. Best Western has been on an ex­pan­sion drive in Asia. This ho­tel fol­lows re­cent open­ings in Myan­mar and Sri Lanka. “Bhutan re­ally is a par­adise on Earth.

Home to breathtaking moun­tains and glaciers, an­cient monas­ter­ies, and an in­cred­i­ble va­ri­ety of rare wildlife, this spir­i­tual coun­try of­fers an end­less ar­ray of al­lures and attractions for lovers of na­ture and Hi­malayan cul­ture,” said Glenn de Souza, Best Western In­ter­na­tional’s vice pres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions Asia & Mid­dle East.

Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies over­look­ing spec­tac­u­lar Hi­malayan chasms is the first thought that comes to mind when most peo­ple think of Bhutan, but it’s also a won­der­land for ad­ven­ture tourists look­ing to trek, go bird­ing, climb or ride swift Hi­malayan rivers.

Shop­ping for hand­crafts and ob­jets d‘art is another pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of vis­i­tors. The high­light of Bhutanese tex­tiles is the in­tri­cately pat­terned Kishuthara silks, a prod­uct of the vil­lage of Khoma. From Khoma, vis­i­tors can make a two-hour trek to the vil­lage from Lhuntse Dzong, a walk fa­mous for its scenery and the scent of its pine forests.

The Tiger’s Nest, Tak­t­sang Monastery is Bhutan’s most fa­mous site. Over­look­ing the Paro Val­ley from its cliff top roost Paro Val­ley, many Bud­dhists be­lieve it was the land­ing spot for the In­dian saint Pad­masamb­hava and his fly­ing tiger.

The life­style that Bhutan is earnestly try­ing to pre­serve is one where pas­toral and agri­cul­tural tra­di­tions still thrive. The coun­try boasts that it has not a sin­gle traf­fic light and that up to 70 per­cent of the coun­try is still cov­ered by for­est. Depart­ment stores, high­ways and fast food are re­garded by the gov­ern­ment as ve­hi­cles of com­mer­cial­ism and deca­dence that would bring the coun­try from its high pro­tected Hi­malayan roost to a place that would have it sucked into moder­nity with all of its woes.

Those val­ues are in ev­ery­thing they pro­mote.

“Bhutan con­tin­ues to en­deavor to pro­vide a unique ex­pe­ri­ence as it con­fronts change by nur­tur­ing so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion guided by the phi­los­o­phy of Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness,” said Ch­himmy Pem, the di­rec­tor of the Tourism Coun­cil of Bhutan. “At a time when the world is fac­ing nu­mer­ous crises, this small king­dom hopes to in­spire large global pow­ers with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment and change.”

Tourists were first ad­mit­ted into Bhutan in 1974, and the num­ber of ar­rivals re­mained un­der 2,000 per year for decades. By 2005 the coun­try was still at 13,643 tourists, which rep­re­sented a 48 per­cent growth over 2004. Bhutan is tar­get­ing be­tween 15,000 and 17,000 tourist ar­rivals for 2006. The num­bers be­gan to grow ex­po­nen­tially in 2006 and by 2011 it was up to 40,000.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bhutan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.