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In Her Happy Place: Exploring Ecotourism in Bhutan


For much of the summer, home base for Lilly Yangchen ’20 is a wildlife reserve in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Through a grant from Hamilton, she's there to examine the prospects for expanding Bhutan's ecotourism. The country, Yangchen explains, may be best known for its development policy of Gross National Happiness. It's a holistic approach to sustainable development that encompasses economic and non-economic aspects of well-being. Here’s more about Yangchen's summer work, which includes an internship at Bhutan’s tourism council.

What got you interested in this topic?

Growing up in Bhutan and later going to school in northern Thailand, and being a keen traveler as well, I developed a strong interest in environmental education and sustainable tourism discourse. I felt inspired to pursue this passion in the form of an independent research when I took a class with my research advisor, Professor Andrea Murray (lecturer in environmental studies) about the "Political Ecology of Tourism" this spring. It was a fascinating class that explored various effects of the global tourism industry, introduced me to the concept of ecotourism, and encouraged me to apply the lessons learned in that class to Bhutan's tourism case study.

about Lilly Yangchen '20

Majors: Environmental Studies, Women's and Gender Studies

Hometown: Thimphu, Bhutan

Highschool: Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Chiang Mai, Thailand

MOre About Student Research
What's the most satisfying aspect of your project so far?

I am continuously reaching out to various researchers and tourism officials in the country regarding my research. It is amazing to see an overwhelming amount of positive responses from them and their willingness to help me in any way possible. I am sincerely grateful for their support. I'm also enjoying the snowball effect of networking with more people through the connections I have established. I like my internship at the tourism council as well because there is so much to learn and explore here.

What's been the most challenging aspect?

As an introvert, I was very hesitant at the beginning when reaching out to people, explaining my research project, and basically putting myself out there. It felt overwhelming at times to organize an independent research. However, with all the encouragement from my advisor, and with the support of everyone around me, I was able to come out of my comfort zone and feel more confident about what I am doing.

How does this research fit into the broad scheme of your education and/or future?

This fall, I am participating in the Hamilton Adirondack Program, where I am required to design an independent capstone project. This research will equip me with all the skills necessary for such a project, as well as future research work. This project has also already inspired me to look into a career involving research on ecotourism after Hamilton.

Contact Information


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