We’re delighted to announce the launch of a new destination for Experience Travel Group: the spiritual Himalayan haven of Bhutan. Here we’re going to share a little bit more about why ETG chose to start creating holidays to Bhutan – or, as it might turn out, how Bhutan chose us – and the kind of experiences you could have in this captivating Kingdom.
First, allow us to get spiritual for a moment. It’s not typically our style, but if we can’t do a bit of soul-searching when talking about a country like Bhutan, when can we?
In Buddhism, leaders are often chosen on the basis that they are the reincarnation of their predecessor; the 14th Dalai Lama, for example, is believed to be the reincarnation of the 13th. Once a leader dies, it is the job of the High Lamas to find the body his soul now inhabits.
But, of course, they can’t just go out and choose a child at random; the child has to put themselves forward, declare their belief that they are the new leader incarnate. Tests ensue, rites are practised, and eventually, it is decreed that the chosen one has been found.
In a similar way, we can’t help but reflect that Experience Travel Group didn’t exactly choose Bhutan, but rather Bhutan seemed to announce itself to us. Now, don’t worry – we’re not self-involved enough to think that finding our next travel destination was a divine act of Buddha… But it certainly came about with a stroke of serendipity.
We had been curious about Bhutan for some time. Having been closed to tourism until 1974, it’s a country that is shrouded in mystery, and the fragments of information you can glean about it paint a pretty unusual picture. Many people know, for example, that the country has eschewed GDP in favour of GNH – Gross National Happiness. Fewer perhaps know that is the world’s last remaining Buddhist kingdom, it has outlawed tobacco and it didn’t have television until 1999. In any event, we were intrigued, and it was on our radar.
And then last year, more and more clients started to ask us about it. They told us they were keen to travel there; they knew you absolutely have to book a holiday to Bhutan with a tour operator (it’s the law there), and they wanted that tour operator to be us.
By sheer coincidence, our Head of Experience, Matt, took a sabbatical to Bhutan in September to pursue a lifelong dream of completing a gruelling Himalayan trek. It then occurred to us that we already had a Bhutan specialist, Sara, working in our company – so far with ETG she had created holidays to India and Sri Lanka, but the knowledge of Bhutan was all there too. We decided it was high time to develop our company connections, set up the logistics, and seize the moment to launch Bhutan.
So that’s what we did. Sara headed off with our Product Director to carry out an in-depth research trip for ETG, and the ball got rolling. They tried and tested guides, experiences, opportunities and hotels (even those that are yet to open, like the much-anticipated Six Senses properties). What they found confirmed our suspicions that this is a place that’s quite unlike anywhere else on earth, and we knew it would capture our clients’ imaginations.
Over the years many people have asked us why we only specialise in South and Southeast Asia, and the main reason (aside from the fact that our specialist areas are extraordinary) is that we don’t want to dilute our expertise. When we can all access so much information online these days, we believe a travel company needs to have real connections, proper first-hand knowledge and genuine expertise to set them apart. That’s why we took our time with Bhutan, waited for the right moment where we could develop our knowledge intimately enough to add it to our portfolio.
Ultimately, our mission as a company is to show people a side to Asia they didn’t know existed, to facilitate those moments where you experience something new and feel worlds away from the everyday. Whether it was fate, karma, or just good timing, Bhutan came along and gave a new meaning to that mission – and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Curious about Bhutan? We will be officially ‘launching’ Bhutan on our website in mid-March, but if you would like to have an initial chat with Sara, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach Sara on 0207 924 7133 or via an enquiry form. Alternatively, you can take a look at our example holidays: Essential Bhutan, Bhutan In Depth or Adventure in Bhutan.