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Our Actual Visit By Far Exceeded What We Anticipated
After our return to Singapore we are reviewing all the wonderful photos and experiences gathered during our memorable visit to your beautiful Country. Although we already had high expectations prior to departure, our actual visit by far exceeded what we anticipated, thanks to your in-depth knowledge of all aspects of Bhutanese, life, religion, culture and history, and also thanks to Bhurpa's very reassuring driving skills across the precarious mountain passes.
My wife Esther has already written to you to express our appreciation for making our visit so enjoyable throughout, but I want to separately take the opportunity to send a BIG "thank you" to you both for show-casing your unique Country in the best of light. Of course the good weather also deserves mention, because without the necessary visibility, we would not have been able to appreciate the high mountain passes, the spectacular Peaks and nature in general, they way we did.
Your very pleasant disposition and positive attitude to solve all the little problems that usually pop up, were indeed testimony of Bhutanese hospitality at its best. Thank you! You can be assured of our highest recommendation as guide and driver to any of our friends, who intend to visit Bhutan. They will definitely feel in good and safe hands, which make such a visit to far-away place all the more relaxing and enjoyable.
Also Namgay deserves credit for recommending you and putting together an exciting programme with good quality hotels and rooms, making sure that we had excellent views from our rooms, which was much appreciated.
We were particularly interested to study the much-advertised Bhutanese lifestyle of "GNH", as introduced by your previous King in his great wisdom and foresight. We were particularly eager to find out to what extent such an ambitious State Philosophy, unique in the World, can actually be put into practice. Well, I have come away, believing that it is indeed possible in Bhutan, to preserve "GNH" but NOWEHERE else in the World, where materialism reigns supreme with all its terrible consequences and destructive evidence. Bhutan's small, homogeneous population, about 75 to 80 % practicing believers in Buddhism, is the key to continued success of GNH. Another important aspect of freedom-loving Bhutanese life is that Bhutan has never been colonized. But I have no illusions that maintaining 'GNH' is much easier said than done. You appraised us those democratic, practical laws and policies to protect "GNH" are firmly in place. But modern advancements and influences are very powerful and can quickly erode and undermine all the good intentions. Government would have to, strictly and uncompromisingly continue to adjust and up-date such existing laws and policies, to keep up with the times and most importantly enforce them for everybody to adhere to.
One of the most effective policies Government can issue, would be to limit tourism growth from the present 150,000 p.a. to an absolute ceiling number of 200,000 p.a., with slow and very carefully controlled increase to that number over the next ten years. Hotel development should only be allowed to match the demands up to that amount. Most importantly, cheap group travel by the masses should absolutely be discouraged. This can be easily achieved by simply raising package prices and hotel prices, also for independent travelers not on packages. I have unfortunately already noticed that cheap group travel at low prices is being advertised. This is absolutely the wrong policy!!! Bhutan wants and deserves appreciating QUALITY', NOT QUANTITY! Since Government collects half the money of any income from tourism to be spent on noble causes such as education and the like,
Government would more than benefit from a rigidly enforced policy of "Quality over Quantity". Besides, the narrow mountain roads and other somewhat precarious, unsealed paths to major attractions should be kept as at present, and just be maintained to remain in good conditions. But they should not be expanded to encourage big tourist buses to "terrorize" your beautiful countryside, which would result in "appreciating", individual travelers on a unique culture experience (not counting pennies), to stay away, while the cheap masses would soon overwhelm your small Country.
After setting up a mutually convenient time to ' talk tourism' with Namgay early next year, I shall particularly focus on the danger and destructive power of cheap mass tourism to Bhutan, when I visit his office after the holidays and have a stimulating discussion about potential "GNH" failure.
In the meantime, many thanks again.