Asia specialist Experience Travel Group (ETG) has launched its first Bhutan programme, seeking to pioneer travel to the “rarely explored” kingdom, which is famed for its spiritual pursuits.
The operator will offer a range of itineraries and experiences, as well as tailor-made travel options, in Bhutan, informed by “extensive research” and efforts to establish on-the-ground connections.
According to ETG, while Bhutan has been open to tourism for nearly 50 years, just 71,000 visited last year – that in itself a ten-fold increase on numbers in 1999. Travellers are not currently allowed to enter Bhutan independently and must do so via a travel operator.
Founder and managing director Sam Clark said ETG’s Bhutan programme would steer travellers towards little-known areas of the kingdom, such as Haa Valley, and would not seek to continue propagating the portrayal “throughout the industry” of Bhutan as a “mysterious” or “unknown” destination.
“Bhutan is pitched as mysterious and enigmatic by nearly every tour operator in our sphere,” said Clark. “But after exploring the country ourselves, we learnt it is all about the people and the magical connections you can make. There is so much more to Bhutan than this lazy cliche suggests.
“Our clients are not interested in being carted around as causal observers. From visiting a local farm to learning about their way of life or learning about the superstitions that pervade daily Bhutanese life, we have curated experiences that reveal the fabric of the destination.
“What’s more, we recognise this as a period of critical change for Bhutan. We invited several of our repeat clients to pioneer our Bhutan holidays before the official launch; all of them noted that while the country is full of fascinating traditions, it has also opened the door to modernisation.
“We would love travellers to experience Bhutan now, while its distinctive heritage continues to thrive."
ETG is also promoting Bhutan as an Asian twin-centre destination, pairing it with trips to India and Thailand.