Imagine a travel destination where cyber cafés and mail carriers to remote places coexist; think of a place where Toyota vehicles and riding ponies run simultaneously. Dream of a place where you can experience everything exotic, starting from clowns during masked dances to non-stop drives along the snaking roads crawling amidst dense wilderness, exhilarating white water rafting to torturous trekking through the Snowman Trek for 25 days, medieval fortresses sprouting from the top of the cliffs to innocent village folks facing foreigners with a maiden’s shyness.
Are you picturing an imaginary world? No! This is real. This is Bhutan, the last Shangri-La, known as Druk-Yul, the dragon kingdom – a tiny speck of 46,000 km² mountainous nation, sandwiched between the two giants, China in the North and India in the South.
Gross National Happiness in Bhutan
This is the country, which has recently attracted the world’s attention by daring to advocate its unique economic development policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a truer/better indicator of measuring development, thereby challenging the conventional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) parameters. Well, one ought to be mesmerized by the guts of this young country that has emerged out of its self-imposed isolation just forty years back for thinking differently.
Tourism in Bhutan Today
Amongst others, tourism is the major earner to the national exchequer besides Hydro power and forestry. But at a time when the industry is growing at its fastest pace globally, Bhutan is moving with a caution. The nation’s target is to bring in 25,000 tourists by 2008, the highest number ever to be allowed into the kingdom but this figure will be exceeded by the end of 2008, even despite government regulated tariff of USD 200 per day per person. Considering its size, the precariousness of its culture, natural environment and its judicious national policies, one is but compelled to believe that 25,000 tourists a year is a magnificent figure! For, this country has outlined what it calls ‘high value’ and ‘low volume’ policy as far as tourism industry is concerned. It means not everyone can visit. Sorry, no cheap back-packers please. Those who have fat purses and really want to escape from the metropolis can visit, others just dream of visiting another day.
There are a good number of tour operators in the country, mostly banking upon reaping clean profits even if only a few visits a year. But travelers visiting Bhutan will not regret a bit for having to pay so high because what you will get will always exceed what you will pay for. No, not in tangible terms but the very fact that you have entered Bhutan as a tourist would give you the satisfaction that you have added to the proud number of elite tourists.
Eco-Tourism and Green Practices are what Bhutan is all about
At the operational level, the components of this grand vision are being translated into conspicuous actions. For instance, if you are a tour operator, you have to use LPG to cook and heat during your entire tour so as not to put pressure on wood and forest resource. The country by the way has ambitiously sworn to keep its present forest cover of 72% to a minimum of 60% for all times to come. Our forests would definitely act as a mini carbon sinks for the global emission of carbon dioxide. We are seriously considering on benefits of carbon trading.
Traditional handicraft makers and artisans form a big bulk of the Bhutanese population. The sale of their products is being encouraged to visitors helping the local people to benefit from the rich.
Animal husbandry is still a predominant activity amongst rural population. While the riding & packed pony is the chief beast of burden to transport traveler’s stuff thereby enhancing the income of the local community, purchase of fresh dairy products like cheese, butter, milk, and meat to feed the visitors during their travel to Bhutan is another economic net contributing to triple bottom line.
It is mandatory for all tour operators to collect and carry back trash from the trekking routes and dispose properly. Annually, cleaning campaigns are being organized to promote clean environment & pollution. Awareness campaigns on aspects of pollution, cultural erosion, health education, and sustainable livelihood tips etc., during tours is a part of our package for visitors.
Eco-tourism is gaining greater momentum. If you are a guest of Experience Bhutan Travel Company, it is a taboo to use detergents in streams, springs and rivers. You have to stay only in designated campsites, respect the local culture and be a Bhutanese for a while! The entertainment programmes arranged during the cultural tours generate income for women singers and dancers, contributing to women’s gain from the industry.
It is taboo in Bhutan to circumambulate monasteries anticlockwise. We are not being superstitious but culture-conscious. Once visited one can almost feel the mysticism of the East in the very many myths and legends, races and religions, songs and dances, history and mystery, meandering roads and serpentine rivers, body shuddering cliffs and spine-chilling gorges, rich biodiversity, amazing customs and cultures that have interwoven our existence and civilization itself.
Feel the Difference in Bhutan
To cut the long story short, you will feel the difference here: a difference quite different from decadence, a difference contrary to what you are used to in your part of the world, a difference in the air you breathe and above all a difference in the people you meet and talk to-a difference absolutely unique to Bhutan.
The bottom line of our efforts to operate in line with the triple bottom line concept is that you pay us the money and during your travel in Bhutan, we would give you the Bhutan Experience- a holistic experience harmoniously blended of economics, environment, cultural plethora and social responsibility. We are into business guided by the Buddha’s Middle Path teachings. In striking the balance between these often unbalancing forces rests our secret. They say seeing believing; we insist feeling is experiencing.
Visit Experience Bhutan Travel for more information, www.experiencebhutan.com .