Friday, 9 November 2012

The power of word of mouth

Bobby Ghosh writing in a recent issue of Time described a country so:

“This is the last authentic place on earth. Authenticity is a rare and valuable commodity and people will travel far to find it”Mr Ghosh uses the word to mean real and genuine in a positive sense. He goes on to say “It’s the closest thing to Shangri-La I’ve ever seen”. For readers unfamiliar with James Hilton’s classic novel, Shangri-La was a beautiful land in the Himalayas where good gentle people lived long happy lives untouched by so called civilization.

He is describing Bhutan, a country sandwiched between China and India with a population of 700,000 with their own version of Buddhism and a democracy with two distinct differences in their belief in what constitutes progress in the 21st century.

Bhutan has an alternative to the western gauge of the Gross Domestic Product. Their version is the Gross National Happiness index based on what they describe as “The four pillars”. These are sustainable economic development, conservation of the environment, preservation of culture and good governance. 

The nine components of happiness are psychological well-being, health, work-life balance, education, good governance, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and finally living standards.  

Unlike many western democracies, Bhutan’s government will not abandon everything in pursuit of growth and know that wealth alone does not guarantee happiness.

The Government has also decided what sort of tourist they would welcome. Not the hippies on the trail of cheap marijuana that damaged Goa and Nepal. Bhutan wants the rich visitor interested in the beauty of the preserved countryside, it’s culture and religion. Birdwatchers, and adventure seekers are also welcome. These folk pay a daily tariff to limit the number of tourists and help with the maintenance of authentic Shangri-La.

Go before they change their mind.    


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