Gangtey Lodge in Bhutan—which offers 12 suites with views of the Phobjikha Valley—is set to reopen this September. After a nearly three-year closure, Bhutan is poised to open with a focus on a sustainability model of high-value, low-volume tourism. New efforts are aimed to keep the country carbon-negative and a green destination for tourists while protecting its people, culture, values and environment.
“COVID-19 has allowed us to reset, to rethink how the sector can be best structured and operated so that it not only benefits Bhutan economically but socially as well while keeping carbon footprints low. In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens,” shares Dr. Tandi Dorji, foreign minister of Bhutan and chairperson of the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Starting September 23, 2022, the standard minimum daily spend of $250 per person per day will be replaced by a new daily sustainable development fee (SDF) of $200, which will go towards activities that promote carbon-neutral tourism and build a more sustainable tourism sector. Beyond protecting the country’s natural environment, the SDF will be directed towards activities that preserve Bhutan’s cultural heritage; these include community-led projects that promote the sharing of authentic experiences and education of Bhutan’s traditions and culture. The SDF will also ensure the development of tourism activities that help local communities thrive economically.
Additionally, the former mandate to book with designated operators has been removed. Starting this fall, travelers can book directly with hotels, although the government will still require an assigned guide. There will be no quarantine as of September 23. Currently, 97 percent of the eligible Bhutanese community has been vaccinated. Festivals for 2022 will be back on the calendar and will include Gangtey Tshechu from October 7-9 and the annual Black-Necked Crane Festival on November 11.
As one of the few independent boutique lodges in Bhutan, Gangtey Lodge remains committed to its mission to empower and create opportunities for the local community via training and employment and respecting the environment. The lodge will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2023 and is eager to share its new guest experiences with all travelers, including friends, families and honeymooners.
For friends traveling in groups, reaching Gangtey Lodge is half the fun as they traverse through forested Himalayan valleys. Upon arrival to their suites, guests receive a welcome “Relaxing Massage” and in-suite “Relaxing Bath.” Activities include a hike through mountain forests or mountain biking along the numerous trails that start right on the property.
Families that show a particular interest in community initiatives and education can enjoy visiting local schools. Whether learning how to track and identify different birds and trees with the changing seasons or how to apply the principles of Buddhist philosophy to daily life, there will be plenty of opportunities for families to play, learn and grow together. The “Learn About The Forest” course is a customized, fun-filled program that opens up a whole new world to young explorers. It includes learning about mountain and forest survival techniques through competitions and nature quizzes. Children can gain hands-on experiences by planting trees to make a direct impact on the local environment.
Couples arriving at Gangtey Lodge will be greeted with a “Welcome Relaxing Massage” before being led to their Farmhouse Suite. They can soak in a herbal bath next to the fireplace. As part of honeymoon celebrations, guests are invited to a private “Thrussell and Moenlam Blessing and Prayer Ceremony,” performed by one of the masters from the Monks University, for purification and protection against obstacles. Following the ritual, a welcome dinner awaits guests.