Bhutan Tourism: Issues and Challenges

Bhutan Tourism: Issues and Challenges

Nilanjan Ray (Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan) and Dillip Kumar Das (Sikkim Central University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7470-7.ch012


This chapter explores tourism, which acts to promote the local economy, socio-cultural changes, and lifestyle of the people residing in and around in Bhutan. The purpose of this study is to explore the issues and challenges of tourism at Bhutan and find the impact of tourism to gain experience from art, culture, lifestyle, etc., which in turn create a tremendous impact on the local economy. In a pilot survey, it was observed that tourism in Bhutan has also improved its civic amenities like communication, sanitation, transport facilities, and standard of living for the people in general. This chapter emphasizes the concept of tourism, different issues, challenges related to tourism, as well as revaluing the effectiveness of development of socio-economic conditions of underdeveloped regions. The potentiality of tourism in the context of social development in particular and general is analyzed through the tourism appraisal model.
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Bhutan Tourism

Bhutan is one of the world's smallest countries with a population of about 726,000. Its isolation from the world has kept its rich culture and pristine environment intact. Preserving the way of life of its people is a high priority. Tourism in Bhutan began in 1974, when the Government of Bhutan, in an effort to raise revenue and to promote the country's unique culture and traditions to the world, the country opened its isolated to other countries. In 1974, 287 tourists visited Bhutan. Since then the number of tourists visiting Bhutan has increased to 2,850 in 1992, rising dramatically to 7,158 in 1999.By the late 1980s tourism contributed over US$2 million in annual revenue.

Despite being known to foreigners, the government is extremely aware of the environmental impact tourists can have on Bhutan's unique and virtually unspoiled landscape and culture. Therefore, they have restricted the level of tourist activity from the start, preferring higher quality tourism. Until 1991, the Bhutan Tourism Corporation (BTC), a quasi-autonomous and self-financing body, implemented the government's tourism policy. The Bhutanese government, however, privatized the Corporation in October 1991, facilitating private sector investment and activity. As a result, today over 75 licensed tourist companies operates in the country.

The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan is regulated to a manageable level due to lack of infrastructure. The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes that tourism is a world-wide phenomenon and an important means of achieving socio-economic development particularly for a developing country like Bhutan. It also recognizes that tourism, in affording the opportunity to travel, can help in promoting understanding among people and building closer ties of friendship based on appreciation for having different lifestyle and culture.

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