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[greenyes] Globalization Meets Bhutan


August 18, 2004

Building Luxury Lodgings
In Some Faraway Places

August 18, 2004; Page B1

PUNAKHA, Bhutan --

Mr. Zecha, who has just opened Amankora Paro, first of the six five-star
properties he plans to build in this isolated country. Founder of
Singapore-based Amanresorts, Mr. Zecha has carved a niche in the travel
industry by building luxurious retreats in remote spots aimed at people
willing to pay as much as $4,000 a night.


"Mr. Zecha, who is 71 years old, says he didn't even think about the
potential risks when he started the Bhutanese venture. "We do this sort of
thing all the time," he says. "What makes it special in Bhutan is that no
one else has been there before."
He took Bhutanese national carrier Druk Air's first flight from Bangkok to
Paro 13 years ago. "I fell in love with it," he says of the pristine
country. He started to lobby the Bhutanese government to allow him into the
country to develop a resort. Three years ago, he was rewarded for his
tenacity when the government invited him to establish the country's first
international hotel in partnership with Bhutan Tourism Corp.


"Mr. Zecha and his Australian-born, Singapore-based architect, Kerry Hill,
dreamed up a series of six Aman lodges across the country, which would allow
guests to trek between the properties, along the way exploring remote
valleys and high passes; the capital, Thimphu; and landscapes of dzongs
(fortified temples), villages, rivers and rice paddies.


"The picturesque building site in Punakha is only reachable by crossing a
raging river. The first attempt to build a suspension bridge to give access
ended in disaster last year when a flash flood swept away the concrete.
Materials and manpower are now transported across by an unpredictable cable
car -- which on one occasion broke down, leaving Mr. Hill dangling over the
river at dusk for more than an hour.

"Bhutan is considered a developing country with a low average wage and
increasing competition for jobs as rural migrants flood into towns like
Thimphu and Paro. Still, many unemployed potential recruits have been
indifferent to the jobs offered by Amankora and rival resort project Uma
Paro, which pay above the country's average wage but less than jobs in the
public sector (the average monthly salary at Amanresorts, for example, is
between $87 and $144).

"But there is little doubt that the Amankora resort and Uma Paro, which is
expected to be completed in October, will have an indelible effect on both
local staff and the country in many ways.


"The Bhutanese government wants to double the number of visitors coming to
the country in the next two years.

"There are fears about the effect on the environment. But there's no turning
back. "Until Bhutan entered the world, Bhutanese were quite happy with the
little they had," says Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Thinley. But,
he says, 'we've entered the globalization process. You have to peek over the
fence and walk on the lawn on the other side. It's part of human nature.'"

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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