A small country locked between two tourism powerhouses of Nepal and China, Bhutan is known not for its droves of visitors, but for its conscious tourism practices. It is a kingdom that cares for the environment not only within its backyard but also globally. Here are a handful of the many reasons why travelers can look to Bhutan when booking a more mindful vacation.
Commitment to Conservation
Bhutan is situated in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. With such unique and abundant wildlife in Bhutan, ecotourism is a major draw for responsible travelers. The country, while small, is made up of several major national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and protected areas that make up roughly 40% of the kingdom. The National Parks of Bhutan are each an invaluable ecosystem that protects endemic plants and wildlife. Several endangered species reside in Bhutan, and a large ambition for the country has been to stabilize populations of animals like tigers, snow leopards, and rare birds.
Hunting is illegal in Bhutan, the Forest and Nature Conservation Act which was introduced in 1995 protects animals and prohibits poaching, which has made the country a safe haven for many animals. In order to adhere to visa restrictions, tourists are required to pay a daily fee, much of which goes towards conservation efforts. This daily charge is one way to keep the number of tourists at a manageable level and to keep the tourism dollars in Bhutan for a sustainable tourism royalty that goes towards healthcare, education, and infrastructure in the country.
Bhutan is the only country that can boast that it is completely carbon negative. While it is one of the world’s smallest countries, the Kingdom of Bhutan has made one of the greatest strides toward correcting issues surrounding the carbon crisis.
What is Carbon Negative?
Carbon Dioxide is the leading cause of carbon emissions, so being CO2 negative means that you emit less than zero carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gasses. Essentially Bhutan is offsetting more carbon than they are contributing to the environment by carbon capture and sequestration.
Bhutan has long been famed for its focus on Gross National Happiness as opposed to traditional economic standards to predict a nation’s growth. The GNH is a philosophy that subscribes to the overall wellbeing of the country and a big part of this metric is monitoring the country’s values which include combating the climate crisis.
Bhutan’s tradition is the initial draw to visiting the nation. Keeping culture and tradition alive is important to the Bhutanese, especially in regard to religion. Many in the country practice a form of Mahayana Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect in the world.
Because Bhutan was so isolated from the rest of the modern world up until the 1960’s, it has inadvertently allowed for the kingdom’s people to continue their cultural traditions without alien influences. Traditional garbs are still the attire of choice, a Gho for men and Kera for women. When visiting, you’ll also see architecture and art represented in a time-honored way, keeping with Bhutanese heritage’s style, form, and function. While abiding by age-old tradition can be a taxing concept in contemporary times, it has been a way for the nation to maintain its unique sense of identity.
By holding wildlife conservation as a sacred act, making the environment a priority as well as keeping cultural reverence, the Bhutanese and their nation are what make the country a truly special and sustainable place to visit. What the kingdom has committed to on a small scale can hold an example for other destinations that are trying to emulate a more ethical approach to the tourism industry and beyond.