An anatomy of the new national brand - Bhutan Believe
On September 23, 2022, Bhutan reopened its borders, welcoming guests back to the kingdom after more than two years. At the same time, the country has revealed a new national identity that demonstrates an evolution and a spirit of optimism, destined to inspire pride and spark the imaginations of citizens and visitors alike.
To mark the reopening of the kingdom and to look to the future, Bhutan created a whole new identity for the country to inspire a new vision of the future to its citizens. The result reflects Bhutan’s character and landscapes, history and ambitions: bold, vivid, richly storied and utterly distinctive – rebranding it for a new future, both for its people and its guests who are seeking a different travel experience.
Few foreigners have experienced Bhutan's extraordinary nature and culture for themselves. This small nation of only 800,000 people has long practised a policy of ‘high value, low volume’ tourism to protect and preserve its peace, its sacred places and its wildernesses. Like many countries, Bhutan closed its borders in March 2020 in response to Covid. During this extended period of closure, the nation reconsidered its relationship with tourism, and developed new policies and plans for the country’s advancement – in particular, for how it can invest in creating sustainable opportunities for its young people. As it reopens to embrace visitors once more, one of the notable changes is the increase in the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), a daily contribution made by visitors towards Bhutan’s development. The funds raised by the SDF will play an invaluable role in supporting a range of social, environmental and cultural initiatives, as well as Bhutan’s wider aspirations.
Brand Bhutan aims to capture the optimism and ambition of the kingdom as it opens its doors to guests once again, as well as communicating its promise and plans for its young citizens.
“This kingdom is steeped in history, but our gaze is fixed on the future. This is our moment of evolution.
Guardians of some of the world’s most pristine, wild and sacred places- and of a rich, deeply rooted culture- we are steadfast as the cypress in our commitment to conservation.
Our future requires us to protect our heritage and to forge fresh pathways for forthcoming generations.”
Bhutan is rightfully called the guardian of the world’s most pristine, wild and scared places with rich forest cover, scared spiritual places, living cultures and a youthful and educated population. With about 70% of geographical area still under forest cover and over 50% of its total land declared as protected areas, Bhutan is also recognized worldwide for its abundant biodiversity. These are the priceless assets of the country.
Bhutan’s new tagline: Believe
The national tagline for Bhutan – Believe – is about believing in the future of Bhutan, believing in what Bhutan is doing differently, and believing in the values, the capabilities, the contributions and the potential of our citizens.
The brand manifesto sums up this optimism with the brand message:
“We see a bright future. And we believe in our ability and responsibility to realise it together, and shine as a beacon of possibility in the world.”
The hope is we become what we believe in. We are asked to believe in ourselves, in our worth, in Bhutan’s future, with hope and conviction.
Youth at the heart of the brand Bhutan
The brand Bhutan is focused on youths and the campaign posters comprises cheerful mugshots of young Bhutanese students who represent Bhutan’s future. The Prime Minister of Bhutan, during the launch said, “The brand will be a shared asset that will be taken care for generations. Youth is our focus—we believe in their future, dreams and aspirations.” He also stated that the best conduit to realising Bhutan’s vision are the youth and professionals in the tourism industry. “While those working in the tourism sector will represent the Bhutanese people at the forefront, the entire nation is the tourism industry and every Bhutanese is a host. The minimum fee the country is asking the visitors to pay is to be reinvested in the people, the place of the meeting, which will be the Bhutanese people’s shared asset for generations.”
Contemporary Constellations of Brand Bhutan
Brand Bhutan’s ‘Contemporary Constellations’ comprises traditional Bhutanese patterns or hand-painted ornaments, auspicious symbols and mythical animals. If you travel in and around Bhutan, you will notice several hand-painted patterns or ornaments on houses and structures.
These 13 crafts or Zorig Chusum represent Bhutanese cultural identity. These traditional motifs have been reimagined with digital precision to create dynamic new icons for Brand Bhutan.
The eight auspicious symbols (Tashi Tagye) which is celebrated in Bhutanese culture, has also been ingrained in the brand constellations with a bold, graphic reworking in high-contrast hues, evoking Bhutan’s dynamism and transformation, rooted in its vibrant heritage. This digital art, in a way, is symbolic as they also represent revolution-- a change from what is traditional to something new and contemporary.
We also notice the four guardian animals from Buddhist mythology: tiger (tak), snow lion (Singye), garuda (Jachung) and dragon (druk). These symbolic paintings are seen in the temples and homes in Bhutan. The digital images of these four auspicious animals are seen scattered in the brand constellations to symbolize and invoke stories of Bhutan from past, present and future.
All these motifs, symbols and animals in intense colors are imagined as a mesmerizing constellation. Hidden at first, but upon a closer look, vivid like stars in the night sky. This is how Bhutan’s brand narrative aspires to portray Bhutan to a conscious traveler.
As the brand’s constellations symbolize the missing pieces only visible to conscious eyes, so will Bhutan be noticeable only to those who are willing to take an extra effort to seek Bhutan from the constellations of other global destinations. Only a dedicated closer look will ensure that the travelers find Bhutan and so, find a piece of themselves in Bhutan. Such travelers are Bhutan’s guests who would be dedicated partners in Bhutan’s transformation journey to make a meaningful contribution towards preserving Bhutan’s priceless people, nature and culture.
Sustainable Development Fee
Bhutan gained global attention for recently announcing its raised Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) from USD 65 to USD 200 per person, per night. There were mixed reactions to this bold move. However, what remains essential is to understand that the SDF will directly go towards projects that support Bhutan’s economic, social, environmental and cultural development. The fees raised will fund national investment in programmes that will help preserve Bhutan’s cultural traditions, sustainability projects, infrastructure upgrades and opportunities for youth, including free healthcare and education for all.
Happiness is still a place
Bhutanese still believe in happiness and for most outsiders, Bhutan would always be known as the country of happy people. Although the previous blue poppy logo with the tagline ‘happiness is a place’ is removed, Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) still remains intact with the new brand as it is the root of Bhutan’s foundation-- a gift from the golden throne.
It’s these plans and programmes that Bhutan’s brand – and new campaign – is built upon. It offers a rallying cry to believe - in the nation’s capabilities, its values, its global contribution, its responsibilities, and its future.
The Bhutanese who understand the new brand concept know that it is the time for us to move on from the good old familiarities, and metamorphose into progressive, reliable and innovative citizens. In simple words, the optimism is to work hard towards a common dream of a progressive Bhutan for our children, grandchildren and for the generations beyond.