Student Work

  • Integrated Design (BFA)

    Shanley Mitchell

    Nation Branding and Environmental Behaviors within Bhutan

    In 2016, I spent a semester studying at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research in Bhutan. Bhutan is a small majority-Buddhist country nestled at the eastern edge of the Himalayas between China and India. Bhutan has never been colonized and has remained cut off from external countries for centuries. Bhutan first opened its doors to tourism in 1974. Since then, the tourism industry has grown to be one of the largest contributors to the country's GDP. It is now regarded as a high-value, low-impact industry. In order to protect its culture and environment as it began participating in the global economy, Bhutan branded itself by creating a uniform image of the country. Bhutan's nation-branding efforts showcase its policies relating to Gross National Happiness (GNH), strong cultural heritage, and pristine environment. I was fascinated by the way Bhutan has managed to maintain policies of GNH and protect its environment despite becoming a tourist destination. I also wondered whether Bhutan's branding efforts had an effect on tourists' values and behavior in relation to Bhutan's environment and culture. I began addressing these questions during my independent research in the country. This study analyzes how branding practices in Bhutan affect the impact of tourism on the environment and addresses conservation efforts on macro and micro scales. This thesis asks: How can Bhutan's nation-branding efforts help maintain a high-value, low-impact tourism industry? And can marketing Bhutan's environment as pristine lead to behavior that helps preserve it? See more on issuu.