Happiness Tourism in Bhutan

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Gross National Happiness (GNH) is doing wonders for the Bhutanese tourism industry. While Americans top the list of tourists visiting Bhutan, there has been a significant increase in the number of British tourists. Last year 2,795 British tourists visited Bhutan compared to 1,772 in 2010 – an increase of 1,023.

While relevant officials from the Tourism Council of Bhutan could not be contacted, tour operators that Bhutan TODAY spoke to attributed the rise in the global awareness of the Bhutanese concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Tashi Namgyal, the manager of Bonsem Tours and Trek based in Thimphu, said the numbers of British tourist are increasing every year. “The majority of our clients were from the US and UK,” he said.

While pointing out Bhutan’s culture, tradition and environment as the unique selling points (USP), he added that the universal diffusion of Gross National Happiness has “added fuel to the fire.”

Similarly, another tour operator said that besides the “beauty of Bhutan in all forms,” GNH is becoming the USP. “After GNH was adopted and recognized at the World General Assembly last year, Bhutan’s popularity has soared,” he said. According to him, most of the British were aware of Bhutan. However, the British Prime Minister, David Cameroon’s interest and comments on GNH and the debate in the Parliament, which became headlines “injected interest amongst the British.”

The director of Etho Metho Tours and Treks in Thimphu also said they handled a pretty good number of British tourists last year.

Meanwhile, a freelance guide Sonam Tobgay said technological advancement has also helped the tourism industry through the promotion of GNH. “Almost all the tourists know about GNH. But it has become so popular that people want to see what kind of a country came up with the idea,” he said.

Similarly, Kezang Dendup, another freelance guide said “some tourists know more about GNH than we do.” “I handled two groups of British tourists last season. Most know about GNH, but they are interested to see how happy the Bhutanese are. They were overwhelmed by the sight of our environment, clean air and of all our values.” Kezang said that the young and old visiting lhakhangs in the national dress “impressed” his guests.

Meanwhile, Bhutan Visit Tours and Treks said Italian tourist topped the number in their company.

“This is mainly because we have attended the Italian trade fair,” an employee said.

Original story by Bhutan TODAY.

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