Bhutan: The costly ‘Shangri La’

THIMPHU, September 5, 2011 (AFP) – The isolated kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world and a haven for celebrities and the well-heeled. In 2012, it will become even more costly. By doing a better job of marketing Bhutan overseas and increasing flight links, tourism officials hope more people will visit but without disrupting one of the world’s most protected countries. Foreign tourists are required to book through licensed tour operators, who charge a minimum high-season price of 200 dollars per day per person for an all-inclusive package including accommodation, food and transport.

The pristine Himalayan kingdom of snow-capped mountains and gushing mountain streams pursues a policy of “high-end, low-impact tourism,” deliberately keeping out the hordes who might spoil its untouched environment.

From the start of 2012, the high-season daily fee will rise to $250 per day per person, meaning a stay in one of the basic hotels as part of the package will cost a travelling couple at least $500 a night.

“It may not make economic sense now to be high end, but Bhutan will be preserved for future generations of visitors,” the director general of the Tourism Council of Bhu