Asia,  Ecotour

Bhutan, a Happy Country

What comes to mind when hearing about Bhutan? There may be few people who actually have a clear image of what kind of country it is, though this small country is becoming more well-known due to the perceived well-being of the country itself and its populace.

When one thinks of Bhutan, they may have the image of a “happy country.” Behind the image of a happy country, the King of Bhutan proposed the GNH (Gross National Happiness) measure in 1972 as a guideline for the development of the country. It has worked so well that there is still a public goal of increasing GNH.

What is GNH

Based on the values ​​of Buddhism, the GNH ie; Gross National Happiness, conducts a nine-field survey with 72 indicators based on four pillars: (1) sustainable and fair socio-economic development  (2) environmental protection (3) promotion of culture (4) good governance. 

Nine areas and concrete indicators:

① Psychological happiness

How often do one experiences feeling jealous, how calm one feels, etc.

② Health

Body mass index (BMI), distance to medical center, etc.

③ Education

Literacy rate, understanding of history, etc.

④ Cultural diversity

Traditional art skills, frequency of traditional sports, attitude towards ethical question, etc.

⑤ Community vitality

Family relationships, volunteer days, etc.

⑥ Environmental diversity and vitality

Awareness of river pollution, garbage disposal methods, afforestation, etc.

⑦ Time usage

Working and sleeping hours

⑧ Living standard and income

Household income, food insecurity, etc.

⑨ Good governance

Government policies to reduce income inequality, right to freedom of expression, etc.

Bhutan is unique for sightseeing

Bhutan has a system called the tourism fee.

The fee is a  unique system which allows travellers to go sightseeing without paying for accommodation and travel costs by instead paying a daily fixed amount and it works in the same way as a package tour of a travel agency. This fee is a daily fee, which varies depending on the number of people entering the country as well as the time of year. At first glance, this fee ranging 200 – 250 usd may seem high. But once travellers are able to itemise all of the items which are included, such as meals, accommodation and tourism – it can seem quite minimal. 

(Source: Tourism Office of Bhutan)

Items included in official fee are:

Internal taxes, fees

Accommodation fee

Meal bill

Guide fee

Domestic travel expenses

Camping equipment and transportation fee for trekking tour

In order to travel to Bhutan, where official tariffs are introduced, one must apply at a travel agency. Travel agencies can be found at the official tourism site. Please check the list of travel agencies on the website of the Tourism Bureau of Bhutan.

The reason such a system exists is that Bhutan aims to provide high value to each and every visitor and to reduce their impact on the environment and culture by limiting the number of visitors to some extent in order to avoid the troubles associated with over-tourism. The way Bhutan has managed sustainable tourism with the enactment of this fee, is innovative in itself and serves as a good example for other destinations who may wish to vere from the traditional forms of tourism which are still employed in many places.

Bhutan Eco Tours

Bhutan is one part of a much larger biodiversity hotspot overall in the eastern Himalayas. Bhutan has 74% of its land covered by forests and 51.32% of that is protected area. At least 60% of the country’s land mass is required to be always forested at all times. In Bhutan, as it is full of nature, one is able to enjoy a variety of eco tours (although few are clearly packaged as eco tours). For example, there are many tours which include rural homestays, trekking and hiking, and even visits to national parks. Many national parks in Bhutan are home to endangered species and flora and fauna, including black bears, red pandas and other animals that have mainly ever been seen in the zoo. There are also tours for yoga experiences and attending traditional festivals, so it is advisable to consult with a travel agency as they know all the possibilities.

Bhutan is a country which is taking an advanced approach in the context of eco-tourism, emphasizing eco-friendly tourism and sustainable development.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism can be defined as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (The International Ecotourism Society)

In 2018, Bhutan was recognized as a nationally sustainable tourism destination at the ITB International Trade show  in Germany and was awarded the Sustainable Destinations’ Earth Award.

Grab a more specific image

A local travel agency called BHUTAN MIND VACATION TOURS is recommended. This company, which is recognised by the official Tourism Bureau, offers eco-tours as well as programs centered around trekking and also yoga experiences.

There are many beautiful pictures posted and a virtual tour. If you find yourself thinking “It’s difficult to grasp the image of a trip to Bhutan” or “I want to find a place to go next when it’s possible to travel,” please take a look.

Information such as travel VISA’s,  insurance, and the necessary items for preparing a trip is posted, so it is also recommended for those who are planning a specific trip!

Might your next destination be Bhutan?

Bhutan is a unique country that’s rich in nature and actively pursues happiness for its people. There are many things that can be learned from Bhutan, a country which has been searching for a fitting form of sustainable development for decades. Why not choose Bhutan when on your next trip?

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