A label places it among a set of boutique hotels in exotic places worldwide 

Nat Geo: The National Geographic society has chosen Zhiwa Ling hotel in Paro as one of the unique lodges in the world this year.

Zhiwa Ling was listed among 24 properties across six continents.  The announcement was made on January 6.

The National Geographic unique lodges of the world, the press release states, is a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence.  The selection was done through a rigorous evaluation process based on three criteria.  These include property, guest experience and quality of service, and sustainable tourism best practices.

Experts visited all the properties to evaluate operations, met staff at all levels, scrutinised the lodge’s impact on the local environment and community, the press release states.

Spread over 10 acres, Zhiwa Ling, which means place of peace, started operations in 2005.  Except for the general manager, all its 126 staff members are Bhutanese.

Zhiwa Ling officials said experts from National Geographic visited the property around June last year.

“They also liked our concept of working with the community that supplies us whatever’s available locally,” Yangphel’s chief executive officer, Karma Lotey, said, adding that the sewerage disposal system and recycle program was also a bonus.  Yangphel pvt ltd owns Zhiwa Ling.

During the evaluation process, officials said they also shared with the National Geographic team, their Gross National Happiness plan in business, like welfare of staff, among others.

“We’ve also carried out a happiness survey among the staff with assistance from Centre for Bhutan Studies,” Karma Lotey said, adding all staff work on shifts and have to avail leave, as there is no leave encashment system.

Zhiwa Ling officials said National Geographic liked the fact that the hotel was fully owned by Bhutanese, with authentic Bhutanese architecture, and that 99 percent of its staff are Bhutanese.

“Zhiwa Ling is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st century comforts,” states the National Geographic review. “This is the first five-star Bhutanese-owned hotel, and its 45 beautifully appointed suites look out over the emerald foothills of the Himalaya.”

Having been listed as a unique lodge, all Nat Geo guests, who travel to Bhutan will stay in Zhiwa Ling.

According to tour operators, of the various Nat Geo travel portfolio, the popular ones that tourists avail to visit Bhutan are Nat Geo adventures, expedition, private tours, and jet tours.

The Unique Lodges collection ranges from thatched bungalows in the coastal jungles of Costa Rica’s pristine Osa peninsula to luxury tented suites overlooking Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Australian outback.  According to National Geographic, most of these properties have devised their own renewable energy solutions, prioritised locally sourced food and provided economic and social benefits to the local community.

By Kinga Dema