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"We have become too ambitious, too greedy”: Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) Tourism Model

Teoh, S. (2016) "We have become too ambitious, too greedy”: Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) Tourism Model. In: 2nd Annual Euro-Asia Tourism Studies Association (EATSA) Conference, 26 - 30 June 2016, Lisbon, Peniche & Coimbra, Portugal


background: Bhutan has caught the World’s attention through its unique concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) based on the four pillars of: sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, conservation and preservation of the natural environment, cultivation and promotion of culture, and good governance promoted by Bhutan’s 4th King in 1979.

Objective: This paper investigates Bhutan’s GNH Tourism Policy of ‘high value, low impact’ where a tariff system is used to regulate international tourists through restrictive entry visa, route permit, but exempting regional tourists. International tourism receipts grossed uS$73.29 million in 2014, and is the highest foreign revenue earner. Consequently it is a significant revenue source. The paper argues the McKinsey Report, as part of the Accelerate Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development (ABSD) Plan to increase tourist numbers was too ambitious, too greedy.

methodology: A qualitative methodology using semi-structured interviews with 36 Bhutanese tourism stakeholders provides empirical data.

results: The study reveals that the Bhutan regional tourists doubled compared to international tourists arrivals. The outcome was ‘no value, high volume, high impact’. The study concludes that Bhutan’s tourism policy faces challenges in sustaining GNH. Further research is recommended to develop the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) in order to capture the impacts of regional tourists’ socio-economic contributions.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre
Conference Website:
Other Information: Oral presentation
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