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Bhutan’s Department of Tourism commemorates 50 years of tourismBhutan’s Department of Tourism is delighted to unveil a landmark campaign commemorating 50 years of tourism in the Kingdom. This year marks the golden jubilee since Bhutan opened its doors to the world in 1974. The festivities will commence on June 2nd and extend over a six-month period, culminating on December 17th, 2024, in honour of Bhutan’s National Day.

 Bhutan’s tourism journey began five decades ago in 1974, coinciding with the Coronation of His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan. From the very beginning, Bhutan embraced a policy of “high value, low volume” tourism, and has remained committed to sustainable tourism long before it became a global trend. This approach aimed to generate revenue from tourism while also sharing Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage with the world, ensuring a balanced and mindful development of its tourism sector. 

The first group of tourists to Bhutan consisted of eight Americans, five Spaniards, and one Argentinian, who undertook a long and challenging journey by road, as no airlines were operational at that time. Like these pioneering 14 visitors, the allure and unique charm of a Himalayan kingdom drew hundreds more guests in the following years. However, it wasn’t until 1983, with the launch of Bhutan’s national airline, Drukair, that tourism truly flourished, making travel to and from Bhutan significantly more accessible. 

Over the years, Bhutan has steadily welcomed more guests, with a peak in 2019 at around 320,000 guests per annum. Bhutan is the only country in the world to implement a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) for all guests, which is currently charged at USD 100 per adult, per night. The funds from the SDF go towards various initiatives, including preserving the country’s pristine environment, maintaining its cultural heritage, providing free health care and education for all Bhutanese, and supporting sustainable development projects that benefit local communities.

 “We are immensely proud to celebrate 50 years of tourism in Bhutan. This milestone is a celebration of what has been achieved since Bhutan opened its doors to the world, establishing itself as a unique, transformative and sustainable destination. As we honor the past five decades, we also look forward to a future where sustainable tourism continues to enrich our nation and connect us with the world.  Join us to celebrate this important milestone,” said H.E. Tshering Tobgay, the Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan. 

Bhutan’s Department of Tourism commemorates 50 years of tourism

To commemorate the golden jubilee of tourism, the Department of Tourism in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders and the private sector, will run a series of engaging activities throughout the campaign period including:

 ●      Kickoff Event: A blessing ceremony will be in Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Dordenma statue) in Thimphu on June 02, 2024, to formally launch the celebration.

●      Tourism Awards: Bhutan’s first ever tourism awards will be held in August, celebrating excellence and innovation in Bhutan’s tourism sector.

●      TedX Talk: Featuring multiple speakers from Bhutan discussing topics related to tourism through the years, sustainability and future projects.

●      Jewellery Collection & Fashion Show: The event will showcase Bhutanese-inspired craftsmanship and design over the past fifty years.

●      Global Embassy Events: Hosting events at Bhutanese embassies worldwide, inviting media and travel trade to learn about Bhutan’s past and future tourism.

●      Dzongkhag Visits: Working with districts (Dzongkhags) to help tell their own stories relating to tourism over the past 50 years.

●      Preserving Memories:  Creating content that tells the stories of Bhutan’s past 50 years of tourism, showcasing images, videos, experiences and memories to be used across all marketing channels, as well as a new brand film, a printed magazine, a coffee table book, a mini-documentary and posters.

●      Industry Collaboration: Other initiatives include launching new itineraries, the introduction of a loyalty program, and working with the tourism industry to include the 50 years celebration into the guest experience, among other projects.

 “Our journey from welcoming the first tourists in 1974 to today becoming a globally admired and aspirational destination is remarkable. This celebration is a tribute to all guests who have visited us, and everyone who has contributed to our tourism sector, and we are excited to showcase Bhutan’s heritage and vision for the future to the global community,” said Namgyal Dorji, the Honorable Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE). “As experienced by the first 14 guests, Bhutan continues to enchant visitors with its breathtaking natural beauty, rich and immersive culture, its strong spiritual offerings and its excellent guest experience. Equally captivating is the warm welcome and genuine hospitality of the Bhutanese people. As the only country that incorporates happiness as a development philosophy and one of the three carbon-negative nations in the world, Bhutan truly offers a unique and enriching experience for every traveller,” he concluded.

 For more information about Bhutan’s Department of Tourism visit www.bhutan.travel