To mark the sixtieth birthday of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the country’s fourth king, Bhutan has declared 2015 the ’Visit Bhutan Year’. From 4 to 8 March visitors to ITB Berlin can find out more about the magic of this kingdom in the eastern Himalayas. After his coronation in 1974 Jigme Singye Wangchuck opened Bhutan’s borders to tourism. And the country has much to offer: its natural attractions range from sub-tropical plains to the highlands and peaks of the Himalayas, some of which are over 7,000 metres high. Bhutan’s spectacular mountain ranges offer unlimited opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The national parks, which protect unique species of fauna and flora, can be explored on hiking trails. Buddhism plays a major cultural role in Bhutan and the picturesque landscapes provide a spectacular backdrop to fortresses (dzongs) and monasteries where visitors can witness the peaceful lives of monks and enjoy colourful, religious festivals (tshechus).
Under the slogan of ’quality and sustainable tourism’ Bhutan has always focused on sustainable tourism and promoted cautious growth as well as far-ranging measures to protect the environment. Nonetheless, the country’s tourism infrastructure has improved substantially over recent years and several new premium hotels are due to open in 2015. In 2014 tourist numbers increased by 14 per cent compared to the previous year. Bhutan’s tourism approach is in keeping with the idea of ’gross national happiness’, a concept formulated by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk in the eighties as a contrast to the gross national product, and a philosophy that has attracted widespread international attention.
Press conference: Visit Bhutan Year 2015 – Celebrate Happiness presentation: 5 March 2015, 3 p.m., conference room, Hall 5.3
Photo: Tourism Council of Bhutan