To create a platform for all tourism sector agencies to come together in a common forum to share, inspire and support the growth of sustainable tourism in Bhutan,  Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society (BSTS) was launched in Thimphu yesterday, coinciding with World Tourism Day.

The platform was conceptualised by an eco-tourism specialist, Karma Tshering, who has a PhD in tourism and more than 10 years of working experience in eco-tourism.

Karma Tshering said the intention was to bring all diverse groups together to shape the future of tourism.

Bhutan, he said has huge potential in tourism supported by a visionary policy.

“Bhutan is almost a picture-perfect travel destination for many,” he said. “It is in our hands to either nurture it to get continuous benefits or exploit it and look for short-term benefits.”

He said the dynamics of tourism development was changing in Bhutan due to the rapid increase in the numbers and the pathway to sustainability needs realignment. “We cannot be complacent anymore. The time has come for us to become more proactive.”

Besides the relevant government agencies, he said that other tourism sector associates like Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan and donor partners have been putting in their efforts to support tourism growth in Bhutan.

“In spite of this the biggest gap recognised in tourism development is the lack of coordination between these agencies,” he said. “Tourism is multi-sectoral and working in isolation is a potential threat to sustainability.”

This is where the existence of BSTS comes in to interpret, to strengthen coordination and foster partnerships. “To bring all the players together under one roof.”

One of the objectives for establishing BSTS was to encourage and support tourism research. The forum would upload all researches on tourism in Bhutan.

The society also aims to be a think tank to provide informed decision to the government.

Gross National Happiness Commission’s secretary, Thinley Namgyel said tourism was identified as one of the key sectors in the 12th Plan.

Thinley Namgyel said lack of coordination, collaboration and consolidation was there in all agencies within the government. So, in the 12th Plan, the triple C is one key new element where the emphasis would be on coordination, collaboration and consolidation.

Tourism is also one of the nine flagship programmes in the 12th Plan, he said.

The society would be a voluntary organisation driven by experienced and passionate group forming the management team. Free membership would be open to all interested individuals. “I am hopeful that the society that we are initiating will make a difference to sustainable tourism in Bhutan and of course support GNH,” Karma Tshering said.

Dechen Tshomo