Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: Bhutan's Tourism Turns 50


Bhutan is set to commemorate the golden jubilee of its tourism industry, marking 50 years since the nation first welcomed international visitors.

(Source: Kuensel)

The celebration, which spans from June 2 to December 17, 2024, coincides with the anniversary of Bhutan's tourism sector opening in 1974 and the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) initiated the campaign with a launch event on 2nd June at the Buddha Dordenma statue in Kuensel Phodrang, Thimphu. Bhutan’s tourism has always adhered to a “high value, low volume” policy, emphasizing sustainable tourism long before it became globally popular. This strategy has allowed Bhutan to generate significant revenue while preserving its rich cultural heritage and ensuring mindful tourism development.

The country’s tourism journey began with its first group of tourists: eight Americans, five Spaniards, and one Argentinian, who braved a long road journey in the absence of an airline. The launch of Bhutan’s national airline, Drukair, in 1983 marked a turning point, significantly enhancing travel accessibility and boosting tourism growth. By 2019, Bhutan welcomed around 320,000 tourists annually.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay expressed immense pride in celebrating this milestone, highlighting Bhutan’s evolution into a unique, transformative, and sustainable destination. He emphasized the ongoing commitment to sustainable tourism, aiming to enrich the nation and strengthen global connections.

Namgyal Dorji, Minister for Industry, Commerce, and Employment, praised Bhutan’s remarkable journey from its initial 14 tourists to becoming a globally admired destination. He noted the consistent allure of Bhutan’s natural beauty, immersive culture, spiritual depth, and exceptional hospitality. Bhutan's unique approach, integrating happiness as a development philosophy and being one of the few carbon-negative countries, offers an unparalleled experience to visitors.

To celebrate the golden jubilee, the DoT, in collaboration with various stakeholders, has planned numerous activities throughout the six-month campaign:

  1. Kickoff Event: A blessing ceremony at the Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu on June 2, 2024.
  2. Tourism Awards: Bhutan’s first-ever tourism awards in August, recognizing excellence and innovation.
  3. TedX Talk: Featuring multiple speakers discussing Bhutan's tourism journey, sustainability, and future projects.
  4. Jewellery Collection & Fashion Show: Showcasing Bhutanese-inspired craftsmanship and design from the past fifty years.
  5. Global Embassy Events: Hosting events at Bhutanese embassies worldwide, engaging media and travel trade with Bhutan’s tourism narrative.
  6. Dzongkhag Visits: Collaborating with districts to share their unique tourism stories from the past 50 years.
  7. Preserving Memories: Creating content to tell the story of Bhutan's tourism over the last half-century, including a brand film, printed magazine, coffee table book, mini-documentary, and posters.
  8. Industry Collaboration: Introducing new itineraries, a loyalty program, and integrating the jubilee celebration into the guest experience.

Additionally, Bhutan’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 100 per adult per night supports environmental preservation, cultural heritage maintenance, free healthcare, education, and sustainable development projects benefiting local communities.

As Bhutan celebrates this significant milestone, it continues to enchant visitors with its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, embodying a unique and enriching travel experience.

Book a trip to Bhutan today to experience the magic of Bhutan for yourself!

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