Inspiration from Bhutan

Bhutan’s concept of gross national happiness is based on three pillars: environment, good governance and preservation of rich cultural heritage and traditions.

As a land-locked country, Bhutan’s dependence on tourism brings opportunities, employment for local communities and a range of challenges. The key issue is developing a long-term economic development plan that is focused on sustainability and delivers quality experiences. The intent is for travelers to continue to perceive Bhutan as a unique destination underpinned by the country’s gross national happiness.

The sheer volume of curious travelers wanting to explore new destinations combined with an unrestricted flow of tourists could negatively impact Bhutan’s unspoiled environment and unique culture. A policy of ‘high-value, low-volume’ will initially help to control the quantity and quality of tourism on offer, but the question is what has Bhutan learnt during its journey to responsible tourism?

In the heart of Bhutan’s Thimphu valley, is the luxury 5-star hotel Taj Tashi, the epitome of elegant design inspired by Bhutanese Dzong architecture. Taj Tashi is EarthCheck Silver Certified with a dedicated team who have implemented a range of environmental initiatives that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Although Earth Hour has its origins in Australia, Taj Tashi has taken to turning out the lights monthly in a bid to save energy. What’s special about this Earth Hour is that guests are invited to join in and for 60 minutes it’s lights off as staff and guests gather to share stories and enjoy the ambience created by candlelight. 

There’s also regular tree planting near the tourist area of the Great Buddha and nearby nature trails. The staff are recognised and appreciated in the local community, including the general hospital where they regularly donate blood. Their clean-up projects involve the departmental teams from Taj Tashi adopting an area to ‘tidy up the streets’. In 2017 they collectively worked 1,856 hours to improve environmental sustainability, raise awareness about pollution and restore community pride in the city.

What started out as a Taj Tashi corporate social responsibility program has gathered traction and mobilised staff, guests and the local community to do their part to help mitigate climate change.