Staff Reporter 

Bhutan was bestowed with the esteemed award—Best Sustainability Initiative—by a Destination at the 2023 Luxury Travel Gold List Awards Australia.

Sonam Tobgay, the Bhutanese Ambassador to Australia, accepted this accolade during the awards ceremony in Sydney yesterday.

The award applauds a destination that has implemented a consumer-facing sustainability initiative, allowing travelers to actively engage and contribute to the sustainable goals of the destination.

Bhutan’s Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) initiative, imposing USD 100 per night per visitor, is an integral component of Bhutan’s high-value, low-volume tourism strategy.

Proceeds from the SDF are directed towards various initiatives in Bhutan, funding conservation and sustainability projects, upgrading infrastructure, enhancing workforce skills, providing free education and healthcare to all Bhutanese, and more.

The recognition for Bhutan’s efforts comes from a panel of avant-garde leaders in luxury travel.

Sonam Tobgay, speaking on behalf of the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra, highlighted that Bhutan’s approach to sustainable tourism exemplifies the possibility of a symbiotic relationship between travellers, local communities, and the environment.

“We believe sustainable initiatives foster deeper connections between travelers and the communities, local people, their culture, and nature. Operating under the banner of our nation’s brand ‘Bhutan Believe,’ we focus on delivering high-quality infrastructure and guest experiences while minimising our impact on the planet,” Sonam Tobgay said.

Dorji Dhradhul, the director general of the Department of Tourism Bhutan, emphasised that the SDF represents an investment in Bhutan’s cultural preservation, environmental protection, and enhancement of visitor experiences. It supports, he added, initiatives ranging from tree planting to reducing the carbon footprint, ensuring that Bhutan maintains its carbon-negative status.

“Bhutan’s tourism strategy of high value, low volume has not only promoted sustainable tourism practices but has also significantly contributed to the conservation of Bhutan’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage,” he said.

With this award, Bhutan aims to remind the global tourism industry that sustainability and luxury are not mutually exclusive. Dorji Dhradhul underscored that conscious travel can establish profound connections with the world around us.

In a similar vein, the award-winning travel media brand, AFAR, has featured Bhutan in its annual “Where to Go” list, highlighting 25 exciting destinations to visit in 2024. The reduced tourism fee in Bhutan, it said, encourages visitors to explore new corners of the world’s first carbon-negative country.