Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bhutan Promotes Sustainable Tourism

Hotel Zhiwaling
Hotel Zhiwaling and Yangphel Adventure Travel, both part of the Yongphel group of companies, became the inaugural private enterprises in Bhutan to adopt the national philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), when they launched in 2011 a three-year programme to integrate sustainable business practices into their operations.

Karma Lotey, the CEO of the Yangphel group of companies said: “The firm has been adhering to the principles of GNH for some time, but we thought it was finally time to formalise our processes.”

During the first phase of implementation, Hotel Zhiwaling and Yangphel set out to raise understanding among employees of the nine key components of GNH, and how its values could be integrated into the business. Workshops on waste management and environmental monitoring were conducted for staff members.

Hotel Zhiwaling Interior
Isabel Sebastian, a sustainable tourism consultant drafted in to develop Yangphel’s GNH-based practices and business structure, said: “This exercise enabled both players to engineer benchmarks and indicators for the Bhutanese tourism sector. Now, there is a basis and reference point for companies in Bhutan to integrate the concept of GNH to achieve lower electricity consumption and carbon emissions while reducing waste.”

“What’s amazing was that the success of the first year, including a reduction in carbon emissions, was attained solely through behavioural changes (of employees),” Sebastian added.

A statement by Hotel Zhiwaling revealed that emissions per guest per night declined by 13 per cent in 2011 over the year before, after a waste segregation and recycling system was introduced as part of its GNH efforts.

Hotel Zhiwaling Interior
Also commiting to its GNH philosophy, Yangphel launched a competition for its trekking crew, awarding a prize to those who collected the largest amount of waste along trekking routes for recycling. Responsible trekking and minimum impact guidelines were established and introduced in July 2011.

Subject to further funding from the Bhutanese government, the second phase of implemenation will take place in 2012, with the focus on educating owners and shareholders about the concept of sufficiency.

Sebastian explained: “Essentially, we want owners and shareholders to agree and declare a satisfactory profit level, and develop steps that will enable the organisation to transfer benefits to as many people as possible.” 

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