In Bhutan, tourism gives back: The kingdom’s 50-year quest for sustainable visitation

David Archer

17 January 2023

What happens when an entire country commits to playing within its social and ecological limits? 

To find out, we asked Bhutan. This small kingdom in the Himalayas seems to have found the answers to many of today’s tourism challenges 50 years ago. Bhutan’s modern tourism industry began welcoming visitors in the 1970s, long before the dramatic, global growth of mass tourism. The UNWTO estimates that there were an estimated 6.2 million international arrivals within the Asia & Pacific region in 1970. By 2018, that annual number had grown to 323 million. And since the beginning, Bhutan’s national policies have prescribed a set amount of visitation while making sure the public benefits from the profits. It’s a unique example of destination management with profound lessons for places looking for a new path forward.

In this episode of the Think Revelstoke podcast, our hosts speak with Damcho Rinzin of the Tourism Council of Bhutan. He joins us to share:

  • Principles Bhutan has used to shape its tourism industry. 
  • Why Bhutan’s Sustainable Development Fee (STF) was put in place.
  • How Bhutan has responded to growing demand and overcrowding at some sites. 
  • How Bhutan’s brand helps it attract respectful visitors.
  • Recent changes in light of increasing demand and recovery from COVID-19. 


“What would you say to the tourism industry in places that perhaps haven’t ever considered […] that there may be a perfect amount of tourism to balance all the different interests?”

Think Revelstoke is a podcast about the future of tourism and its impact on a fast-growing destination. What choices lie ahead for residents of Revelstoke, British Columbia and destination managers everywhere? 

Listen to this episode and subscribe to Think Revelstoke on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or through your favourite podcast player.

Feature image: Aaron Santelices on Unsplash


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