On Thursday 16 January 2020, Visit Antwerp and VISITFLANDERS organised an inspirational morning at the FMCCA for professionals working in, and linked to, the tourism industry.
A fascinating presentation by Damcho Rinzin – Chief Marketing Officer, Tourism Council of Bhutan – about the success story of Bhutan in terms of sustainable tourism and gross national happiness, was followed by a panel discussion about balanced and sustainable tourism with Koen Kennis (Alderman for Tourism, City of Antwerp), Anja Stas (CMO/CCO Antwerp ZOO Society and Flanders Meeting & Convention Centre) and Pieter Loose (Hotond Sporthotel, Kluisbergen). A mix of entrepreneurs from the tourism industry, stakeholders, and policy-makers in Antwerp and Flanders engaged in a dialogue with each other, sharing their ideas on the tourism of the future.
In pursuit of the happiness of Bhutan
Flemish Minister for Tourism Zuhal Demir opened this inspiration session with a brief introduction on the goal of connecting tourists and recreational visitors with locals and local businesses in a meaningful way. Referring to the superb example of Bhutan, Minister Demir emphasised how important it is to invest in sustainable and balanced tourism.
Gross national happiness for residents and tourists
In his presentation, Damcho Rinzin discussed in detail how Bhutan copes with the influx of tourists in relation to nature and the local communities, and how they combine this with the gross national happiness of their population. This tiny Asian country has defined nine key areas for measuring the Gross National Happiness. They are Education, Living standards, Time Use, Psychological wellbeing, Health, Cultural diversity & resilience, Community vitality, Good governance and Ecological diversity & resilience. Moreover, they focus on these key areas to ensure the local population’s happiness, but also applies to their tourism policy. Bhutan has made it a point to focus on storytelling to preserve the country’s legends and folk tales and to share them with tourists as part of their cultural heritage. They also pay attention to the layout of the landscape, banning utility poles in nature areas, and to new infrastructure, ensuring the architecture blends harmoniously with the existing buildings. Bhutan also hopes to be a 100% carbon-neutral country by investing in sustainable means of transport, combating the excessive use of paper, and by committing to plant sufficient trees.