For as long as I can remember, the magical kingdom of Bhutan has been one of the countries I’ve most wanted to visit. One of the world’s leaders in the future of tourism, Anna Pollock, gave the opening keynote speech there last month at the PATA Adventure Travel & Responsible Tourism Conference, Anna is the founder of ConsciousTravel and is very highly respected in the travel and tourism industry. After the conference, she wrote a post entitled, Why Bhutan IS the First Conscious Travel Destination. One sentence stands out for me –
Pull not Push: the hallmark of a Conscious Travel Destination is its ability to attract the right customer – the visitor whose values match those of the host. Bhutan isn’t for everybody. Bhutan is for the visitor seeking a unique, and some would say, exotic experience of a vibrant culture expressed in a pristine setting.
At the World Travel Market (WTM) last year, Zoe Dawes (The QuirkyTraveller) and I were fortunate enough to talk to one of the tourism ministers and some of the tour operators on the Bhutanese stand. Both of us have Bhutan right up there at the top of our bucket lists! In fact, after WTM, Zoe was asked by First Choice to respond with her choice for ‘The End of the World Bucket List’ and, naturally, she chose Bhutan.
This Monday, representatives of the UN attended a high-level event in the UN General Assembly hosted by the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to look at the happiest countries in the world and discuss how to put happiness on the global agenda. It is all the rage at the moment, countries trying to measure happiness and not just economic growth. Bhutan has been doing this for nearly forty years now, when the grandfather of the current constitutional monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, initiated the idea of an alternate model to gross national product as a measurement of national progress. How refreshing, how wonderful to be the country that started it all, that had the foresight and understanding to give birth to such a valuable concept.