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Back to news

Boosting “Brand Bhutan”

September 21, 2022 - A carbon-negative country with an accomplished population and preserved cultural identity, Bhutan opens its borders on September 23 with plans to create “high-values” experiences. Bhutan Tourism Council’s CMO Carissa Nimah gives us the scoop.

  • Gangtey Bhutan Host Looking Into Valley

After a two-year-plus hiatus, it is great news that Six Senses Bhutan is welcoming guests from September 23 with a special Reopening Celebration offer. To mark the occasion, we find out more about the Kingdom’s hospitality vision and aspirations from Carissa Nimah, who moved to Thimphu on September 1 to start a new role as Chief Marketing Officer for the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

Having spent eight years working for a luxury hospitality brand in the Maldives and Thailand, Carissa was approached to join TCB on a unique and visionary transformation project ongoing across the country, from the civil service to the financial sector. The changes are geared towards equipping the population with more proficient skills, knowledge, and experiences.

“I am very excited about the potential of helping to market Bhutan’s national tourism strategy to further boost economic and infrastructure development, cultural exchange and jobs. The leadership’s vision for tourism is to manage it in a thoughtful, sustainable, and ethical way. The infrastructure of the country can’t support mass tourism. In line with Bhutan’s constitution, 70 percent of the land should remain under forest cover, so the tourism model also protects the Kingdom’s natural resources and cultural identity. I believe it’s a model for other countries to consider in the future.”

Bhutan’s appeal is as much about its people as it is about its beauty.

“Around the world, people may know that Bhutan is carbon negative or that it has been coined the Happiest Place on Earth. What they might not know is that the Bhutanese are exceptionally well-educated, traveled and accomplished, with the majority of the population speaking very good English. This is an important part of the guest experience, because visitors end up making deep connections with their guides, hosts, and local communities. Many people leave the country having made Bhutanese friends.”

Travel can alter perceptions and therefore help reset or reboot unhelpful habits back home too.

“Together with an agency, we’re working on a new brand for Bhutan that will be unveiled on September 23, and we are running workshops to understand how guests feel when they visit the country.  Many guests are humbled by their experience. For many, a visit to Bhutan can help reset the meaning of luxury, moving away from consumerism into rare, authentic, and meaningful experiences. Bhutan is well-placed to capture the growing global trend in this direction.”

Bhutan’s extended closure has led to a rethink about how the tourism sector can bring economic, environmental, and social benefits by creating high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for its population. This is the purpose of the Sustainable Development Fee, which levies a USD 200-a-day tourist fee. It enables investment in transformative programs that preserve Bhutan’s cultural traditions, protect its heritage and environment, upgrade infrastructure, create opportunities for its young people, and build resilience.

“The SDF helps create a circular economy, as the money goes towards offering free education and healthcare for all, sustainable community and environmental projects across the country, guide training, and keeping trails open and clean, among many other initiatives, which in turn elevate the guest experience,” Carissa explains.

“Together with my colleagues at TCB, we’re also looking to create new and innovative itineraries around the country, so guests are blown away by what they experience and, most importantly, come back. For many people, Bhutan is seen as a bucket-list destination, which is great, but we don’t just want guests to tick us off and move on to the next country. Part of the strategy is to find a way to connect with guests so they want to come back time and again because there are so many more things to explore in Bhutan, so many layers and experiences.”

Plans are afoot to create ambassador networks and opportunities to entice people back through richer itineraries and cultural and literary festivals that capture the essence of Bhutan.

“On the business side too, Bhutan has a burgeoning textile industry with some fabulous designers, so part of the plans are to find international platforms to promote their work and encourage foreign designers to come in and engage with our local talent. We’ll also be supporting Bhutanese chefs to exchange ideas and skills with international chefs, encouraging cross-cultural promotion and exciting culinary events in Bhutan and abroad. Bhutan’s artistic talent is also under-represented in terms of exposure. Until now, tourists have been following fixed itineraries. There’s a real opportunity to showcase the more hidden side of Bhutan.”

Bhutan’s wellness traditions form another high-potential attraction, something we’ve already seen at our five lodges that together make up Six Senses Bhutan. Each lodge offers Wellness & Spa treatments, ensuring the path to well-being is as varied as the journey itself.

“Visitors are showing great interest in the unique blend of traditional medicine, local herbs, and application alongside Western allopathic medicine. When combined with the kind of nature immersion you can expect in the Himalayas, the healing mix is potent.”

Carissa has moved to Thimpu with her husband, six-year-old daughter, a German Shepherd, and an English Cocker Spaniel. We wish them well!

If you’re curious to embark on your own journey through the senses around Bhutan, find out more about our introductory eight-night, three-valley Khamsa. Our Reopening Celebration offer is valid for bookings made by October 31, 2022.

“Joen pa Leg So”: we hope to welcome you soon!

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