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"To change of not to change?": The way forward for the GNH Tourism Model

Teoh, S. (2014) "To change of not to change?": The way forward for the GNH Tourism Model. Murdoch University. School of Arts, Murdoch, W.A.



Bhutan’s GNH tourism model began in 1974, with the notion of ‘high value, low volume’ through the mechanism of the tariff system, which has functioned well. In 2009, the model changed into ‘high value, low impact’. This change saw huge increases in tourist arrivals, under the Accelerating Bhutan’s Socio--‐economic Development (ABSD), through the McKinsey Report (2010). The McKinsey Report prioritises one of the 4 GNH Pillars: equitable and sustainable socio--‐ economic development. In 2012, tourist arrivals exceeded the proposed 100,000 visitors target, causing widespread impacts on the limited tourism resources and capacity.

The aim of this report is to address some tourism challenges that continue to confront the GNH tourism model. The three objectives of this report are: first, to identify some of the tourism challenges; second, to provide strategies to manage these challenges, and third, to recommend changes in policy directions for GNH tourism to achieve its goal of ‘happiness’. The methodology used is a qualitative semi--‐structured interview of 36 tourism stakeholders. The data was analysed using the NVivo10 qualitative analysis program.

The key finding reveals that Bhutan’s tourism remains controlled by a small minority of tour operators. Apart from structural recurring tourism challenges, three other significant challenges are identified that requires change: an uneven playing field; bad debts, and poor tour guides’ remuneration. Two key strategies to manage these challenges are: education and tariff liberalisation. Four policy direction changes are recommended to: educate the wider public about tourism review the tariff system, reduce bad debts and induce foreign direct investment, in order to achieve the GNH goal of ‘happiness’. If left to its status quo, the GNH tourism model faces danger as the notion of ‘high value, low impact’ remains elusive. 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the GNH tourism model, and this provides the opportunity to review the tariff system in order to achieve equitable and sustainable tourism.

Publication Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Series Name: Report for the Government of Bhutan
Publisher: Murdoch University. School of Arts
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