2nd April 2011: Bhutan Observer:At a briefing by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod) mission on ecotourism for Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP) in Bumthang this week, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said that eco-tourism cuts across all sections of the society. Hence, there is a need to boost its growth by extending the tourist visiting season and diversifying products.
Ecotourism is not only in line with Bhutan’s objective of a green economy, but its benefits tickle down to the grassroots, Lyonpo said.
In order to boost eco-tourism within the protected areas in Bhutan with prospects of stretching its benefits outside the protected areas, the Icimod mission, in collaboration with Nature Recreation and Eco-tourism Division (NRED) has undertaken a study.
The team, led by Ester Marjan Kruk, a tourism specialist from Icimod, has come up with five broad recommendations encompassing various components of eco-tourism development, which are currently specific to WCP.
The recommendations take into account various components of eco-tourism relating to management plan, eco-tourism development activities within WCP, legislative system, standardization, tariff policy, overall destination development, product development, trekking routes, community involvement, home-stay, linking tourism with community development and quality standards, among others.
Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen, the forestry secretary, said that the recommendations should be pursued on a priority basis. Otherwise, implementers could get lost, he cautioned.
The meeting also discussed sustainable use and development of the protected areas through collection of visiting fees and the importance of involving the local communities and people concerned during the operation of eco-tourism.
The chief forestry officer of the NRED, Dr Karma Tshering, said, “Eco-tourism is a viable means to both economic and conservation development in the country.”
A participant from the Tourism Council of Bhutan said there is a need to properly maintain the trails and camping sites within the parks.
If eco-tourism proves successful in WCP, it will be replicated in other protected areas of Bhutan.