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There is everything in Bhutan that can attract tourists willing to pay more than USD 200 a day. This is, fortunately, the impression among those visiting Bhutan even as many are concerned about a dying tourism industry and, therefore the hotel industry, because of the surge in the sustainable development fee.

Bhutan is saleable in so many ways. It is not white sandy beaches nor the ski resorts, it is not the luxurious hotels or the drive by the ocean. It is Bhutan and the people. In other words, our national identity. It is the visible strong culture and the pristine country. It is the people who keep the culture alive and the festivals.

The tshechus or the festive season that began a few days ago and will continue for the next few days in many places is a good place to start. Besides its religious significance, it is an occasion to showcase a culture that is distinctly different. It is also a place where people are home enjoying themselves.

How is a weekend market a tourist place? In Bhutan it is one of the favourite places. Some tour operators highlight that in their itinerary. It is there they see the people, especially farmers, with a sack load of chilies happily interacting and conducting business.

In our villages, curious tourists are welcomed as guests. The same could be seen as intruding into privacy in other cultures or places.  If the people and culture, the environment and Bhutanese values are what tourists like, we can sustain Bhutan as a destination, provided we are mindful of the changes that we are going through. Bhutan has changed significantly, yet we have not lost all.



The high value experience that we are promoting comes from these experiences and our effort to sustain tourism and its benefits. We see some changes already.

The mountain festivals are not just about exhibiting highland cultures or yaks. It draws the attention of the conscious tourists to pressing issues like global warming, climate change and the impact of communities. We are a carbon negative country, but our glaciers are melting. We need the world to see the impact of human induced climate change. We need the tourist to influence decisions that affect the world. The average tourist will not see beyond the snow and the glaciers.

To let our guests enjoy high value experiences, the organised drive-around-the-country package will change. The monasteries are getting crowded and tourists are surprised to see familiar faces at the handicrafts shops, cafeteria or a campsite, monastery or a hiking trail.

There are many we could offer. The dying village festivals or traditions unique to the different regions should be revived, not only for tourists, but for our future generations. The recently concluded Black Mountain festival was a feast for both locals and tourists as it showcased different aspects of the people in the region.

The average profile of the tourist visiting Bhutan will change; our tour organisers should change too. Some will be forced out of the market. Those who can provide the high value experience will not only survive, but become richer.



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