The king is celebrating his sixtieth birthday, and that means a big party! To mark this day in honor of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the country’s fourth king, Bhutan has declared “Visit Bhutan Year 2015.” And a king who back in the eighties formulated the concept of “gross national happiness” (as opposed to the gross national product) surely knows how to celebrate. “Celebrate Happiness” is also a fitting slogan for Visit Bhutan Year 2015.
After his coronation in 1974 Jigme Wangchuck opened Bhutan’s borders to tourism and from the beginning placed a focus on sustainable tourism. Forest areas cover 72 percent of the country. By law this figure must never dip below 60 percent. Nevertheless, the tourism infrastructure has changed and several premium hotels will be opening in 2015. In 2014 tourist numbers increased by 14.85 percent compared to the previous year. Germany is the country’s fifth most important source market behind India, Thailand, China and the US.
Environmental protection is firmly embedded in Bhutan’s constitution and at ITB Berlin 2015 new, eco-friendly products are being exhibited, the results of the Bhutan Low Carbon Tourism Project. Bhutan’s CO2 emissions are below the global average. These new tourism products are notable for relying on renewables and energy-efficient transport. They include outdoor activities, health programs and much, much more. Visitors can “explore Bhutan by pollution-free bicycle” or “go trekking on the trail of the thunder dragon.” All this is taking place in a country where preserving the environment is more important than economic growth. And where there are no traffic lights.