Bhutan is in the Himalayas, sandwiched between India and China. I’ve been in Paro for 12 years. It’s been good for me.

I manage two hotels, Zhiwa Ling is our 5-star 45 room flagship and there’s a 20 room hotel in the capital, Thimphu. We have been trying to translate the Gross National Happiness philosophy into a business sense, it follows the culture and traditions of the Bhutanese People. It’s a cliché, people before profits – but it has worked.

There is no community transmission of Covid, but there are 69 quarantined cases in country. It mainly came in through repatriated international students, though since March there has been a mandatory 21-day quarantine in a government facility for anyone returning to Bhutan.

We’ve closed both hotels but retained all the staff, we’ve been renovating and training. We hired a master painter to teach staff to paint in the traditional artforms to repaint the hotel. It’s more challenging for me than when the team are in full-service mode. Covid has had very little impact on my own lifestyle. There has been no full lockdown in Bhutan.

Sustainability is very important here. People are going back to farming and growing vegetables. We haven’t had to go short of anything. The government has done really well reacting swiftly to contain Covid. Tourism is the second highest export earner after hydro generated electricity.

My wife is French, we relocated to Amboise in the Loire Valley last year. Usually she commutes backwards and forwards from Bhutan. I was born in Ngaruawahia but in NZ we lived in Nelson.

For the last 42 years I’ve been working in this industry managing upmarket properties and working in some amazing places overseas. If I went toes up tomorrow, I couldn’t say I was dealt a crappy hand.


Image supplied by interviewee

This interview and the others in the series are an extension of my new book “This Is Us” it is in all good bookshops in New Zealand now.

This Is Us – the diaspora in lockdown – these interviews are slightly different from the ones in the book as they focus on New Zealanders living abroad in this time of isolation.  Copyright Licensing have awarded me a grant to complete this project and convert these postings into a book.

If you can think of suitable interview subjects please let me know via – I currently need interviews in the more unusual places around the world.

Exisle have released This Is Us as an e-book you can buy it here.

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Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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