Bhutan: Land of Gross National Happiness

Land of Gross National Happiness

After documenting 100+ tourism marketing slogans yesterday at World Travel Market (WTM) 2012, Bhutan’s is my pick of the bunch.

The catchphrase Gross National Happiness, or GNH, was apparently introduced by the King of Bhutan in the 1980s and it stands out as unique among the ‘wonders’ and ‘pearls’ of other positioning taglines. Perhaps it feels more authentic for its lack of marketing schmooze but it also still manages to tell us something: that this Himalayan kingdom takes its happiness seriously.

In fact, further research reveals Bhutan to be the only country to use GNH as both an economic measure, similar to GDP, and a guiding principle for its move towards modernisation.

It suggests a unique and fascinating place. But, yes, it also made me laugh – successfully upping GNH as it worked its sly slogan side-effects.

I’ll be posting the rest of the WTM 2012 country slogans… at some point soon.


South Korea inspires with its Gangnam Style robots #wtm2012

Korean robots at WTM 2012Collecting tourism slogans at the World Travel Market 2012 (WTM) this year to update my 2009 post meant walking the length and breadth of London’s Excel – four hours’ solid legwork. South Korea’s marketing slogan was ‘Be inspired’. For once, this was backed up by action – a small army of robots takings centre stage on the stand.

These guys actually dance Gangnam Style…

Pretty cute. All part of Korea’s love affair with robots –  cf robot teachers and prison guards – and possibly the only country at WTM to position itself through its technology. Is this an interesting differentiator for travellers?

La Gomera after the fire…

… is still very beautiful despite the devastating fires of August 2012. More blogging to come but here are some hopefully surprising shots of La Gomera, one of the more unusual and less-visited Canary Island. They show that La Gomera is still very much open for business. (Click on each pic to pull up the locations. More/better pics from Pete Ashton aare going up by degrees on Flickr.)

San Sebastian housing

Continue reading

After the rain at Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls 3

In a country with as much rain as Wales – Snowdonia is the wettest area with average annual totals exceeding 3000 mm, according to the Met Office) – you may as well make the most of a downpour. On our rainy holiday there last week, we detoured down the Llanberis Pass to visit the abundant Swallow Falls, near Betws y Coed. It was in full eddying, thrumming, spraying glory following the rain, as you can see in the video below. Marvellous! Continue reading

Invest in an expedition, art and travel journalism

Jason Florio

Flo! © Jason Florio

I met Jason Florio (‘Flo’) on a trip to The Gambia in 2007, while covering an eco tourism story for the Independent on Sunday.

He was a freelance photojournalist with a ‘boy’s own’ adventure of a life that involved being paid to travel, photograph and document human interest stories, anywhere from Afghanistan to Libya, India to Cuba. Continue reading

Happy isthmus

Llandudno and Snowdonia

Did you know the UK has seven isthmuses – narrow strips of land connecting two larger masses of land? Llandudno in North Wales just about qualifies. It sits on a strip between Little Orme and Great Orme, with the Irish Sea on both sides. We stayed on Gloddaeth St, just seen in the photo above, where you can just about see both horizons and easily walk to both shores. On the north beach, there’s a view out to Llandudno Bay; on the west, the mountains of Snowdonia and a rather nice sunset spot.

Q. Where do travel writers go on holiday?

A. Far from the madding crowd but not exhausting long haul. I’m in the process of putting together a trip to this awesome-looking island. Ten points if you can name it (clue below).

Satellite view of a rugges island

Clue: it is the choice of hikers and many a New Age German but not too far from a major package holiday destination for the Brits. And that green bit in the middle? It’s a rainforest. Answers on a postcard (or in comments)…