The Kingdom of Bhutan is reopening its borders to international travellers following the Covid-19 pandemic. Aside from welcoming visitors to the country, Bhutan has also unveiled a new tourism strategy, underpinned by transformations in three key areas: infrastructure and services, tourists’ travel experiences, and environmental impact to maintain carbon-neutral tourism (TTG Asia, 2022).
Brand Bhutan, the DMO of Bhutan, aims to capture the optimism and renewed ambition of the country, and its new tagline “Believe” reflects this determined focus on the future, as well as the transformative journeys experienced by visitors.
According to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lotay Tshering, “Bhutan’s noble policy of High Value, Low Volume tourism has existed since we started welcoming guests to our country in 1974 – but its intent and spirit were watered down over the years, without us even realising it. Therefore, as we reset as a nation after this pandemic, and officially open our doors to visitors, we are reminding ourselves about the essence of the policy, the values and merits that have defined us for generations.”
While ‘high value’ is typically understood as exclusive high-end products and extravagant recreational facilities, the term holds a different meaning for the country. To the Bhutanese, it is important to be a high-value society that is “infused with sincerity, integrity and principles, where people must always live in safe communities, among serene environments and derive comfort from the finest facilities” (Tshering, 2022).
Bhutan is stepping up its efforts to maintain its status as one of only a handful of carbon-negative countries in the world, and will also enhance its sustainable development policies by raising its Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) from 65 USD to 200 USD per person, per night. The funds will go towards projects that support the destination’s economic, social, environmental and cultural development (TTG Asia, 2022). The 200 USD/night/per person SDF maybe expensive to some but it will help the destination achieve its goal for sustainability and regeneration.
During the pandemic, the government took the opportunity to upgrade the facilities and infrastructure of the country, as well as enhance the standards and certification process for tourism service providers. Employees across the tourism industry also were required to participate in up-skilling programs to focus on enhancing service quality (TTG Asia, 2022).
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tandi Dorji, “we plan to work with our tourism partners to continue to upgrade the itineraries that guests can experience in our country – to help showcase the very best that Bhutan has to offer. We hope that visitors to Bhutan will notice and welcome these changes, and we very much look forward to welcoming all guests to Bhutan.”
Bhutan’s tourism strategy can be said to be sustainable and regenerative because it advocates carbon-neutral travel by taking good care of the local community and traveller’s experiences.