Perspective on a Tourism Model based on Happiness and Sustainability

Isabel interviews Damcho with many curious questions about the state of Bhutan during the COVID-19 global crisis.

With this experience, there is much we can learn from the culture and values of Bhutan in our own sense of recovery.

How is Bhutan doing during the pandemic?

Isabel interviews Damcho with many curious questions about the state of Bhutan during the COVID-19 global crisis. With this experience, there is much we can learn from the culture and values of Bhutan in our own sense of recovery.

How is Bhutan doing during the pandemic?

The tourism industry froze right from the first diagnosis, being such a small company being hit nearer to the start of the pandemic meant that it was a priority to get visitors back home quicker so as to limit the exposure to the illness. Afterwards, the focus shifted to workers and ensuring their livelihood during a time of redundancy. His Majesty the King of Bhutan provided support through the Royal Relief Kidu.

What kind of projects are being organised?

There are currently developments circulating around knowledge, digitalisation, waste management and infrastructure development. When Bhutan first opened up to tourism there was a concept of high value low volume due to the smaller culture and economy of the country. Tourism was to be hand in hand with the culture, which led to an increase in hotels and other tourism players. The pandemic has given an introspective on how that goal is sustainable for larger countries, so Bhutan has seen it as an opportunity to learn.

Can you explain how tourism revolves around the national values of Bhutan?

Bhutan is based around the values of happiness, a holistic way of being happier. Money isn't what makes someone happy, a family isn't what makes someone happy, everything has to come together. Tourism has to be a part of this as well, it's challenging due to the race-like environment that's natural to business, however it just isn't supported by the lifestyle of Bhutan. Any project that goes through the tourism board has the be approved under the lens of sustainability and how it will give to the value of happiness.

How does the sustainable revenue fee work?

The current system is that any tourist must pay $65 per night stayed in Bhutan, this money is put towards schooling, sustainability and maintaining the benefit of the citizens.

If you want to survive as a nation, locals have to be a part of the tourism system, it creates more personable benefits on top of the economical impact.

Why are the tourism guides so important to the tourism of Bhutan?

Bhutan is looking at immerse, personal experiences. Guides are a bridge between environment, culture and the travellers. Bhutan has stories that deserve to be told and by people who have a passion for telling those stories. Not everyone can be a guide, you must have skills and knowledge in order to uphold the high value.

What is a high value tourist considering high value tourism?

Bhutan welcomes everybody, but you cannot please everybody and as such there are people who don't want to experience Bhutan in the way that is in line with the values that Bhutan has. High value is making sure there are the right people who are mindful about economical responsibility as well as environmental sustainability, it's connecting the people who uphold these values with guides who can satisfy their curiosity.

There are some tourists who are critical, if Bhutan fails in upholding these values they are sure to give feedback that says so. These are important tourists in being valuable to the development of understanding tourism.

What do you think the key elements are to being a sustainable tourism destination?

Bhutan defines sustainability as a supplementary effort. Tourism can't be seen as a burden or waste of resources otherwise it goes against the sustaining of cultural values. Keeping locals happy is clearly just as important as visitors.

The holistic approach ensures that there is an expanded focus that takes all stakeholders into account.

Bhutan doesn't have the resources to consider mass tourism so keeping itself an exclusive, high value destination that aims for higher value consumers is currently the only way everyone can keep happy. This includes neighbouring associates such as India and Bangladesh who are large providers also.

What advice would you give to DMOs on how to become more sustainable, attaining the balance that Bhutan has?

The focus has to be the local communities, if we can't keep them happy then how can we expect external visitors be happy? If the host communities are doing well then that's a good start in attaining balance. The focus for Bhutan is Bhutan, it's considered safe and sustainable due to this approach.

Key Takeaways

1. Sustainability is the result of empathy and consideration for all parties involved.

2. Keeping your culture's core values in mind can give way to a more lucrative experience for visitors.

3. Reputation is built from a strong foundation in morals and goals. Maintaining these are just as important to the conversation about sustainability.

Published on:
December 2020
About the contributor

Damcho Rinzin

Damcho Rinzin studied Bachelor of Applied Management in Hospitality and Tourism from the University of New Brunswick, Canada and started his career with the then Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Trade and Industry as a researcher and marketing officer.

Isabel Mosk

Isabel is a destination marketing strategist. She helps cities, regions and countries prepare for the future and tailor their marketing for the era we live in.