Bhutan is working on having better roads, two helicopters and 11 trekking routes to ensure that guests, who visit the country, live a journey they can cherish throughout their lives.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay made these announcements and more at the closing of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) adventure travel and responsible tourism conference and mart 2015, yesterday in Thimphu.
Bhutan, he said, is now a member of PATA, an association that promotes responsible development of travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region. By becoming a member, Lyonchoen said, Bhutan would have the help of the association’s media and communication colleagues to promote Bhutan.
“We can now use their expertise, resources and knowledge in terms of promoting and generating business in Bhutan,” Lyonchhoen said. Lyonchhoen shared with the participants that 2015 is a Visit Bhutan year, dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th birth anniversary. “His Majesty is an enlightened monarch, the architect of the controlled, deliberate and responsible faculty of tourism that we have today; our first batch of tourists arrived in 1974 during the coronation of His Majesty, and he has insisted to keep the numbers down and provide a quality experience not available elsewhere,” Lyonchhoen said.
Safe walking, biking and hiking trails for the tourists would also be provided, while a small heritage village in Thimphu would also be built during the Visit Bhutan year. “Environment is one of the biggest reasons why tourists visit the country; so the agriculture and forest ministry will be conducting a forest inventory, where statistics will be available on how much oxygen is being produced by our forest, and also to prove that Bhutan is a carbon negative country,” Lyonchhoen said.
The Visit Bhutan year will also focus on being a green and clean Bhutan, and opportunities will be provided to tourists to visit hydropower plants to see how clean energy is generated. “Tourism in Bhutan isn’t about money or numbers or about us,” Lyonchhoen said.
“It’s about the journey through Bhutan and oneself, a journey that guests can cherish throughout their lives.” Records with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) show that about 116,000 tourists visited the country in 2013. Last year, there were about 130,000 tourists. “We don’t know how many tourists will visit this year, but we don’t want more than 200,000 tourists, otherwise we aren’t being true to ourselves in terms of sustaining and providing responsible tourism,” Lyonchhoen said.