Not too fast, not too slow, but just right

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Me in My Traditional Bhutan Outfit

I have just returned from the “Land of Thunder Dragon”, Kingdom of Bhutan where PATA held the Adventure Travel & Responsible Tourism Conference & Mart.  The event was a tremendous success, the feedback from participants was very positive, and therefore I am pleased to inform you that the event will now be held annually. We are now in discussion with several potential host countries and expect to make an announcement in April at our Annual Summit in Leshan, China.

My first visit to Bhutan was over 8 years ago and I must admit that I was worried I would find the country completely transformed. I can certainly see some subtle changes, but I was so pleased to see that the country still has its unique charm and magical mystery. Its people, landscape, culture & heritage give you a sense of peace that I have not felt anywhere else yet. The theme of our conference was “Beyond Tourism – Celebrate Happiness” where we discussed the “Traditionalists vs The Disruptors”, Millennial Travellers, Adventure Travel start-ups, and what it means to be a Responsible Travel destination. We were fortunate to have the presence of well-known brands and great speakers.

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Everyone gets touched by something different at conferences and for me the speeches from Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies, and the Honourable Prime Minister of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, were a great source of inspiration. Rarely do you meet someone that changes your perspective on life, someone that is a true source of inspiration; where you say to yourself, I wish I could reach that level of understanding of what a genuine and caring leader is. I have worked in the corporate world for decades and heard many company leaders speaking about their vision, some didn’t make sense to me; others sounded promising; but never have I ever met someone who had such a clear vision and plan as the Honourable Prime Minister of Bhutan. Never have I ever read or seen a country with a tourism policy that so clearly demonstrate how to grow sustainably, a policy that cares and involves its citizen. Never have I ever met a leader with such a clear roadmap to success. In an interview with the press, I was asked if Bhutan tourism was growing too fast or too slow; my response was “Not too fast, not too slow, but just right”.

“High Quality, Low Volume”, the Prime Minister said when referring to its tourism development policies. I would personally add to that statement by saying, “High Quality, Low Volume, and High Positive Impact” on its people and in the interest of protecting its rich culture and heritage. Bhutan is expanding its access to tourism gradually and opening up other parts of the country to Tourism to the East, dispersing its visitors with a goal of improving life for its remote communities. In order to achieve this plan, Bhutan needs to invest in building roads and improve access by other means. It also recognises the need for further hospitality training and cultural events to attract tourists year round. These are just a few insights into the policies and plans that I admire so much. As we say in the business world, plans are plans and the proof is in the execution. However, in the case of Bhutan I am not concerned about the execution, you just have to visit the country to understand that they are walking the talk. The tourism policies and plans of Bhutan are in my opinion an exemplary model of how other countries should develop tourism sustainably, and I hope that many nations take time to learn from them.

Take a moment today and “Celebrate Happiness”.


Mario Hardy
Chief Executive Officer