The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has come up with a draft strategy to address the issue of mass tourism, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said at a press conference last week. Lyonpo, who is also the chairman of the third tourism council, said the issue has also been discussed in the cabinet. “The Prime Minister has […]
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has come up with a draft strategy to address the issue of mass tourism, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said at a press conference last week.
Lyonpo, who is also the chairman of the third tourism council, said the issue has also been discussed in the cabinet. “The Prime Minister has repeatedly asked us to work on this.”
The minister said that the issue was not about regional tourists. “For us, rather than the mass regional tourism that is being mentioned, the concern is on Bhutan’s high value policy being undermined and Bhutan being sold as a budget destination. This is the major concern for us,” he said.
According to the records of the former prime minister’s meeting with the Indian prime minister, lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that discussions from both sides mentioned that Bhutan should take measures to control the number of tourists coming in so that they could be handled.
Some of the options in the draft strategy include capping tourist numbers, introducing daily tariffs as recommended by the Pay Commission, and ensuring that the policy of high value and low impact is maintained by having a certain mechanism in place for tourists to follow such as staying in standard hotels, and guided tours among others. “I assure you that as the chairperson of the tourism council, we are doing everything,” lyonpo said.
TCB’s director general, Dorji Dhradhul said regional tourist includes visitors from neighbouring countries of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives and not just visitors from India as perceived.
While 90 percent of the regional tourists are from India today, he said there was every possibility that the arrivals from Bangladesh would increase rapidly in the future. In terms of the level of impact of increasing regional tourists every year, he said that regional tourism has both positive and negative impacts.
“Regional tourism has been making a significant contribution to the development of the tourism industry in terms of revenue generation,” he said. However, he said that due to its unregulated nature, the number of undesirable impacts is also being felt.
Some of them include undermining the time-tested tourism policy of high value, low volume, thereby risking the image of Bhutan as an exclusive high-end travel destination. “This is due to the unregulated nature of regional tourism which unfortunately gives a wrong image of an unorganised and mismanaged tourism,” he said.
The other undesirable impacts include compromising the safety, security, and experience of the regional tourists, contributing to the practice of undercutting, giving rise to informal and unlicensed accommodation facilities and other platforms.
He said there is pressure on carrying capacity of services and resources. “There is a seemingly growing resentment towards this overcrowding caused by unregulated tourism.”
It also affects the quality of people to people exchange, he said. Tourists, he said, are not aware of certain sensitive cultural and traditional practices and etiquette and not having any locals to guide them lead to developing negative opinions on regional tourists.
Dorji Dhradhul also clarified that all regional tourists are not backpackers and low-end as most tend to wrongly believe.
“We are in no way and in any way saying that we don’t want regional tourist. It is in our interest and advantage that we capitalise on the potential of regional tourism. We know that outbound tourism from these regions is on the rise,” he said. “What we are saying is that we need to manage this important sector of tourism through some regulations for the mutual benefit of the tourist themselves and for us, the host.” he said.
To start with, the council is expected to have some regulations in place for proper management of regional tourism.
“We also hope to do away with the two categories of tourists we have as of today in due course of time. Any visitor or guest coming into the country will be labelled as tourist regardless of their place of origin,” he said. “It is our desire that we treat all tourists as our guest and give them the best and exclusive experience.”
On concerns raised in the media including social media forums about not getting hotel rooms for dollar paying tourists and crowding at heritage sites, Dorji Dhradhul said the claim may not be true for hotel rooms.
However, he said that overcrowding at heritage sites is true and happening. “Maybe we have already reached the saturation point. If we don’t take remedial action soon, the risk on our exclusivity driven by the high value, low volume tourism policy is real.”
Officials with Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan were not available for comments.
To assess where the country is lacking while promoting it as a tourist destination, the government will have a flagship programme on tourism, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said at the national tourism conference yesterday. “With this flagship programme, it is not just to talk about the industry, not just to promote ourselves but see where […]
To assess where the country is lacking while promoting it as a tourist destination, the government will have a flagship programme on tourism, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said at the national tourism conference yesterday.
“With this flagship programme, it is not just to talk about the industry, not just to promote ourselves but see where we are lacking,” Lyonchhen said. “It is to see how we can even out the differences between different dzongkhags; make all 12 months a season for tourists to visit Bhutan, how all industries must be benefitting and how Bhutanese economy should be benefitting because we just cannot keep banking on hydropower. We all know how susceptible that can be,” he said.
Lyonchhen said that the government was committed to taking tourism to the top, the theme of the conference. The government, he said, has already started towards it.
The initial step was to hand over the tourism council chairmanship to the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji. This, Lyonchhen said was based on a few factors.
By 2023, Bhutan will graduate from the least developed countries category and will be entering the developing countries category.
“We that, we must also change our mindset and must change the way we do our business.
The foreign minister is the best person to lead this industry because through him, we could chip in Bhutanese foreign policy in tourism,” he said. “We can rope in all Bhutan’s embassies to work as ambassadors for the industry.”
He urged the participants to raise issues and support TCB to see whether the sector could really take tourism to the top. “We just cannot keep talking about it, we must try to work on it.”
In the next five years, Lyonchhen assured that tourism would get a lot of attention. With a change in leadership at the TCB, and change in governance, he said tourism should receive what it deserves.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said tourism contributes immensely to the economy, is second to hydropower in terms of revenue but the top generator of employment. According to TCB, the tourism industry employed 27,000 people as of 2017.
Given that unemployment is one of the biggest problems in the country and especially related to large number of youth, he said that for any government, tackling unemployment would be one of the biggest challenges. “Tourism is one of the answers to this challenge that we are facing.”
Tourism has come a long way and despite its success, he said that there are many challenges in the sector. “We know that we don’t have a comprehensive tourism policy, coordination between different sectors and problems faced by individual sectors,” Lyonpo said. “On part of the government, we are here to facilitate and support the growth of this important sector so be reassured that we will take all the recommendations made from this conference seriously,” he said.
Over 100 people attended the first day of the conference yesterday.
TCB’s director general, Dorji Dradhul said the conference was held for all individuals and agencies to network and work together. It was also to take stock of questions and answers to take tourism to the top.
He said that the theme of the conference, Taking Tourism to the Top, could be understood in two ways – making tourism number one in terms of revenue earning and to make Bhutan tourism number one in the world.
Hundreds of people are visiting the fifth Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, which His Majesty The King inaugurated on February 21 at the Tendrelthang in Samdrupjongkhar. His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and members of the royal family also graced the exhibition. The Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, senior government officials and representatives of Samdrupjongkhar, the ambassador of […]
Hundreds of people are visiting the fifth Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, which His Majesty The King inaugurated on February 21 at the Tendrelthang in Samdrupjongkhar.
His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and members of the royal family also graced the exhibition. The Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, senior government officials and representatives of Samdrupjongkhar, the ambassador of India to Bhutan and officials from the neighbouring Indian state of Assam also attended the inauguration ceremony.
According to the press release from the royal office for media,this year’s exhibition was dedicated to the 39th birth anniversary of His Majesty The King and was organised by a committee led by the Samdrupjongkhar Thromde. Since June last year, the thromde and other stakeholders have been preparing for the exhibition, along with support from the volunteers.
To commemorate the birth anniversary, the organisers offered birthday cakes, while the members of the community from Samdrupcholing and Jomotshangkha drungkhag put together a cultural performance to open the exhibition.
Ministry of agriculture, private nurseries, and the armed forces developed the gardens in the mainexhibition centre. Besides the gardens, the exhibition has stalls displaying local artists’ works and souvenirs, traditional medicine, tourism information booth and food courts run by entrepreneurs.
Unlike in the past, this year’s exhibition extends beyond the main exhibition centre to include the entire thromde areas. Gardens and stalls have been developed at various parts of the town and people have actively participated in the transformation of the town, by putting up their own floral arrangements around their homes.
The press release stated that the gardens developed outside of the Tendrelthang would be permanent features of the town following the conclusion of the exhibition, as one of the overarching objectives of the exhibition is to bring about lasting transformation of living spaces.
A resident, Dorji Dema, was found sitting in one of the corners and looking at all the flower gardens and stalls. “I do not know what to do so I am just relaxing the happiness of being able to meet Their Majesties and royal family members for the first time since I was born,” she said.
She said it is good to visit Samdrupjongkhar as the whole town has become clean and looks different.
A local healer, Singay Dorji, 66, from Wangphu gewog, said he has displayed medicinal herbs and received good response from people as many of them requested him for treatment. “I gave them my contact details.” He said he had been practicing traditional healing for more than 40 years.
The exhibition was initiated on Royal Command in 2015, with the vision of fostering beautiful living spaces and promoting economic activity. The flower exhibition will remain open until February 27.
With preparations for the upcoming Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition (RBFE) in full swing, Samdrupjongkhar thromde is filled with colours these days. The dzongkhag, thromde, regional officials and other stakeholders are all engaged for an exhibition, which is scheduled to open on February 21 coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty The King. The theme for the […]
With preparations for the upcoming Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition (RBFE) in full swing, Samdrupjongkhar thromde is filled with colours these days.
The dzongkhag, thromde, regional officials and other stakeholders are all engaged for an exhibition, which is scheduled to open on February 21 coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty The King.
The theme for the fifth RBFE is ‘Clean and beautiful spaces’.
The thromde and volunteers have been preparing for the exhibition since June last year. The main exhibition will be held at the Tendrelthang.
The main plantation for the exhibition started on January 10 with the plantation of 1,710 saplings of plants and flowers around the town areas.
Since the areas in the town were allocated to the concerned stakeholders, they are taking care of the flowers. There are micro-gardens in strategic locations and also 15 macro gardens on 9.75 acres of land.
About eight nurseries have been set up in Samdrupjongkhar and flowers are mostly raised in those nurseries. Some flowers were collected locally while some purchased from private nurseries. There are over 100,000 different flowers and plants.
With the flower exhibition, shopkeepers and hoteliers in Samdrupjongkhar are hopeful for good business, as their businesses have not been doing well after the opening of Nganglam- Gyalpoizhing highway.
A hotelier, Neten Wangmo, said she has been running her business in loss because most customers from Mongar and Lhuntse directly travel to Phuentsholing via the Nganglam- Gyalpozhing highway. “I am thinking of giving up my lodge because there is no one to stay in but I hope my business would do well during the exhibition,” she said.
A resident, Karma Wangmo, 45, said she wanted to visit the first flower exhibition but could not, as it was difficult to travel with children. “I am happy that the exhibition is being held in Samdrupjongkhar. I will take all my family members to the exhibition.”
Tshewang Rinzin, 21, from Menchari in Orong gewog, said since the Menchari pottery group is new, they could not sell any pots. “We hope the business would do well as we will display the products and also demonstrate pottery during the exhibition.”
Meanwhile, Clean Bhutan collected more than 50 metric tons of waste from whole Samdrupjongkhar town areas and along the Dungsamchu. Volunteers from Red Cross, desuups, and students are involved in the cleaning campaign.
The executive director of Clean Bhutan, Nedup Tshering, said they started the cleaning campaign since the last week of January.
To commemorate the birth anniversary of His Majesty The King, taxi drivers in Samdrupjongkhar would provide free rides on February 21.
The executive member of Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA), Kelzang Jigme, 44, said they would give free transport service to people from Dewathang to Samdrupjongkhar and also local transportations if needed. “About 27 taxis have registered to date and we are hoping to register about 40 taxis for the service.”
He said that since the thromde has been engaged in preparation works, they decided to provide free transport service, as they could not take part in the preparation works.
It was learnt that Samdrupjongkhar was chosen for the exhibition in light of the historic and geographic importance of the border town, which serves as one of the gateways to the country.
The exhibition is expected to promote the local economy in floriculture and support small businesses.
The exhibition is free for Bhutanese while non-Bhutanese adults and students will be charged Nu 300 and Nu 50 each. Entry for non-Bhutanese children below five years is free.
Two of the busiest lanes near the Zangtopelri lhakhang in Phuentsholing, Goede Lam and Tharpei Lam, are closed for traffic giving residents and visitors to the busy town a breath of fresh air. The roads were closed for traffic since January 24. The move was considered after the new three-storied multicar parking was opened on […]
Two of the busiest lanes near the Zangtopelri lhakhang in Phuentsholing, Goede Lam and Tharpei Lam, are closed for traffic giving residents and visitors to the busy town a breath of fresh air.
The roads were closed for traffic since January 24. The move was considered after the new three-storied multicar parking was opened on January 11. About 150 parking spaces in the town were withheld and traffic markings were also erased to make them pedestrian lanes.
Phuentsholing thromde had announced vehicles would still be allowed about 10 minutes to load and unload. Children are making the best use of the open pace. On any given day, the two lanes are congested with the area being one of the busiest place in the town
Shop owners are saying the decision is affecting their business. At Goede Lam, the owner of Thukten General Shop said business was slow for the last two days.
“Usually, our clients don’t get parking space here,” she said, adding that it is a good move. “But nobody is coming now.”
The shopkeeper said many people would still not know of the changes, especially, the timings they are allowed to load their goods. Most of the clients are from villages and they don’t own private vehicles, she said, pointing taxis should be let in to drop and pick.
“As there are traffic cones to stop vehicles enter these lanes, most must have misunderstood,” she said.
At Tharpei Lam, the owner of Norzang Enterprises said the roads look clean without the vehicles. He said it was too early to say whether the business actually affected or not. People would feel the pinch after about a week’s time, he said.
Visitors are happy with the Thromde’s decision. “There should be a few places for people to walk freely,” said one. “Phuentsholing is so crowded. We need to pedestrianize some more roads to let shoppers enjoy.”
Another said that business would pick up and benefit in the long run as people would prefer walking in vehicle-free roads. “The business owners are panicking. The decision of the Thromde will benefit the general public and visitors.”
More 2,000 people gathered at the courtyard of Trashigang Dzong to witness the unfurling of Guru Rinpoche’s throngdrel on the third day of the annual tshechu. The four-day tshechu that began on November 15 will conclude today. Source: Kuensel
More 2,000 people gathered at the courtyard of Trashigang Dzong to witness the unfurling of Guru Rinpoche’s throngdrel on the third day of the annual tshechu. The four-day tshechu that began on November 15 will conclude today.
It was an experience for the three Japanese students who spent a week in the remote village of Shingkhar in Ura, Bumthang. Sarono Sugiyama, Yuka Miura and Hinata Sogabe, the three students from Konan University are used to the hustle and bustle of Okamato, Japan. Shingkhar, mesmerised the three young Japanese who claim that it […]
It was an experience for the three Japanese students who spent a week in the remote village of Shingkhar in Ura, Bumthang.
Sarono Sugiyama, Yuka Miura and Hinata Sogabe, the three students from Konan University are used to the hustle and bustle of Okamato, Japan. Shingkhar, mesmerised the three young Japanese who claim that it was a “lifetime opportunity” to explore happiness in its true essence.
“We have realised that materialistic wellbeing is not important. The religious outlook based on Buddhism is so strong and this could be the secret behind a happy Bhutan,” said Hinata Sogabe.
The students however found it quite unusual that people didn’t bathe everyday, like they did in Japan. “But they were very kind to arrange a hot stone bath for us,” Sarono Sugiyama said adding that in Japan people have to pay for everything.
A week away from their gadgets and networked world, the students said the trip gave them a chance to explore a completely different aspect of their lives. “There was strong vitality in the community to help each other and celebrate every moment,” Yuka Miura said.
What brought them to Shingkhar was a university programme led by their Professor K Masaki, who is not new to Bhutan.
He first came to Bhutan in 2004 through a JICA project and in 2006 he was the advisor to JICA on a local governance project in Bhutan. The professor is in close acquaintance with an informal association called the Shingkhar Dechenling Phendey Thuentshog. Since 2006, K Masaki has been visiting Shingkhar whenever he visits Bhutan.
He wanted to do something for the community and got the support of JICA and Konan University. He claims that this is the first JICA project that is a mini programme targeting 89 households and focused on one chiwog.
With a fund of Yen 10M (equivalent to Nu 6M) from JICA, the programme has revived a milk-processing unit, conserved two water mills and built a flood protection wall along a small stream.
K Masaki said the milk-processing unit was almost defunct and the structure was giving up. The project installed new equipment and renovated the structure.
The project has not only revived the cooperative but also trained five youth as a leader of the cooperative. These youth would be invited to Japan to master milk processing skills.
Except during the three winter months, each household provides about seven litres of milk to the processing unit. K Masaki said that each household is paid Nu 18 to Nu 20 a litre. This is being revised to Nu 35 a litre.
The bigger idea, he said is to bring students from Japan and make them experience rural Bhutan, which they have never experienced. “Every small gesture my students experienced is very special,” he said.
The three students, he said would be the guide to the future students visiting Shingkhar and they have been selected through an open competition among 30 students who applied.
The funding was proposed two years ago and the two and half year long project began in April this year. Except for the flood protection wall, the rest have been almost completed.
The outline of the project stated that it is in rural communities where people live in close touch with nature and their neighbours, and where better appreciation on spiritual and emotional wellbeing is being embraced.
It is against this background, K Masaki said the project in Singkhar is to assist people to enhance their incomes, and revitalise their collective activities, both of which constitute the mainstay of rural livelihoods. “Shingkhar will be an excellent model for other chiwogs, given its rich cultural and spiritual heritage,” he said.
The reconstruction work at Drukgyel dzong in Paro is 40 percent complete, according to the project officials. The work is estimated to complete by December 2022. The reconstruction works began in April 2016 after the command of His Majesty The King to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness (HRH) The Gyalsey, to commemorate the […]
The reconstruction work at Drukgyel dzong in Paro is 40 percent complete, according to the project officials.
The work is estimated to complete by December 2022.
The reconstruction works began in April 2016 after the command of His Majesty The King to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness (HRH) The Gyalsey, to commemorate the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the country in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche.
Utse, which is the main part of the dzong, was inaugurated last year coinciding with the first birthday of the HRH The Gyalsey. Utse’s reconstruction started on August 26 in 2016.
The project involves geotechnical work, topographical survey, model construction, dismantling of ruins, disposal of debris, and reconstruction among others.
The project manager, Namgay Dorji, said archaeological survey and soil tests were conducted for about three months in 2016 to restore and reconstruct the dzong.
“Two of the seven phases of the reconstruction project had been completed,” he said. “Workers are now occupied in the third and fourth phase.”
More than 200 Bhutanese are working at the site.
Works such as electrification, mud plastering, whitewashing and painting, fixation of the floorboard, door shutter and glass frames are being carried out on parts of the dzong, which are completed.
Stone slabs (Doleps) are also being laid at the basement and courtyards along with the construction of drainage system.
Namgay Dorji said an assessment would be carried out for the other parts of the dzong to check the strength of the walls and accordingly build on it or lay the foundation for construction.
He said that although the requirement is to work for eight hours, they work from 7:30am to 5pm. “They also work overtime from 5pm till 9pm every week except on Sundays.”
The project manager said their main challenge is the shortage of timber. “Lot of timber is needed for the roof. We manage from Haa.”
He said they do not have difficulties in availing of the stone and other materials needed for the construction.
Namgay Dorji said that Nu 500 Million (M) is allocated for the project and about Nu 116.255M was utilised until June this year. “We get a total of about Nu 50M a year.”
Built in 1649 to honor Bhutan’s victory over the combined forces of the military from Tibet and Mongolia, the dzong is believed to be the first of its kind. The dzong used to house sacred documents that were lost to a fire in 1951.
At the ninth edition of Tour of the Dragon, an annual one-day mountain biking race in the country, Aaron Bayard from America recorded the best time at 11 hours and 11 minutes since 2015 on Sunday in Thimphu. It took more than 50 minutes after Aaron Bayard for Norbu, a local biker, to reach the […]
At the ninth edition of Tour of the Dragon, an annual one-day mountain biking race in the country, Aaron Bayard from America recorded the best time at 11 hours and 11 minutes since 2015 on Sunday in Thimphu.
It took more than 50 minutes after Aaron Bayard for Norbu, a local biker, to reach the finish point. Norbu completed the race at 12 hours and 3 minutes to win the runner-up position.
Following Norbu was Tashi Namgyal who reached finish point after 12 minutes to win the third position.
A total of 48 bikers, seven from America, six from India and four from the United Kingdom took part in the ultra marathon mountain biking race organised by Bhutan Olympic Committee.
Rinchen Dema, 23, is the only Bhutanese women to compete in the race to date. She took part in the race last year.
Chimi Dema and Jonathan Redman defend Dragon’s Fury titles
Meanwhile, in another biking competition held on the same day called Dragon’s Fury, the reigning champions Jonathan Redman from Australia in senior men category and Chimi Dema in senior women category defended their titles.
Chimi Dema won Dragon’s Fury thrice in senior women category. A total of six women riders took part in the race and two were foreigners.
A total of 68 bikers took part in Dragon’s Fury – 35 in senior men category, 26 in junior boys, six in senior women, and a lone participant in the junior girls’ category.
Completing the race in 2 hours 34 minutes, Tenzin Namgay won the Dragon’s Fury race in the junior boys’ category. Binesh Thapa followed at 2 hours 52 minutes.
Tenzin Wangmo, the lone participant in the junior girls’ category, finished at 5 hours 26 minutes, which was 28 minutes earlier than last year’s record.
The 60km race flagged off from Punakha at 10 am on Sunday.
More than 100 local and international bikers were involved in two separate events of Tour of the Dragon and Dragon’s Fury on the same day.
Ecotourism, although relatively new and small, seem to be bringing significant development in the rural parts of the country. Careful regulation and promotion of ecotourism, therefore, needs to be worked so that the households can explore income-earning opportunities besides farming. At the time when villages are met with the growing issue of farmhands shortage, taking […]
Ecotourism, although relatively new and small, seem to be bringing significant development in the rural parts of the country. Careful regulation and promotion of ecotourism, therefore, needs to be worked so that the households can explore income-earning opportunities besides farming. At the time when villages are met with the growing issue of farmhands shortage, taking ecotourism or making the villages into attractive tourist market makes all the more development sense.
An evaluation by the Gross National Happiness Commission found that ecotourism has helped bring positive impact on the local communities. Income generated from home stay and campsites have helped improve household income. More importantly, it has led to efficient conservation of natural environment and preservation of culture and tradition.
At the core of the idea is to give the management of tourism-related activities and responsibilities of managing what can be sold to the people of the communities while providing means for them to augment their income from the farms. Most tourists do not go beyond Paro, Thimphu and Punakha because the agents do not plan programmes outside of traditional destinations. It is evident, however, that if we are a little more imaginative and open our rural communities as destinations there will be no shortage of visitors. And because it is an important source of income, communities feel encouraged to maintain the environment and to preserve what is unique about them.
Zhemgang is the dzongkhag that has witnessed least number of tourists, not because there is nothing that tourists can enjoy there but because tour agents do not take tourists there due to distance from the capital. Today, a home stay in Zhemgang makes not less than Nu 400,000 annually, perhaps by lot more than home stays in Thimphu, Wangdue, Lhuentse.
Close to 90 percent of respondents have said that ecotourism has helped improve the living standards of the people in the communities by boosting rural economy. It has been observed that 98 percent of home stays showcased traditional products, served traditional cuisines and traditions unique to the communities.
Today, when the rural pockets of the country are facing the ever-growing challenge of human-wildlife conflicts and rural to urban migration, promotion of ecotourism could be the most appropriate of interventions.