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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Eco- Tourism in Bhutan

Eco- Tourism in Bhutan

Local services underused

Merak and Sakteng gewog officials said benefits to the two communities from tourism were insignificant if tour operators from Thimphu continued not using local services.
Official of the two gewogs said the communities had very minimal benefits to show from eco-tourism.

That, they said defied the very term “eco-tourism” attached with the two nomadic communities of the east, if they refused to use the services the communities provided.

Merak mangmi Jurmey said the community had very little improvements from eco-tourism to show because, save of porter and pony, rest of the services like trained local chefs and guides were underutilised.

He said tour operators brought their own chefs and guides.

Sakteng geowg administrative officer Pema Tenzin also said that except of porter and pony tshogpa (committee) none of the other service providers in Sakteng benefited from tourism.

Tourism in Merak and Sakteng began since September 1, 2010 solely to elevate the community economically.

The government deliberately left the road connectivity to these gewogs halfway so local communities could benefits from eco-tourism.

Since these communities were opened to tourism, about 71 tourists visited Merak and Sakteng until 2011. Around eight more visited until June 2012. More are expected to visit this autumn.

A comparative analysis by end of 2012 will basically show whether eco-tourism in Merak and Sakteng actually picked up and if the communities prospered.

Before the two gewogs opened up to tourism, herders form both Merak and Sakteng were trained as chefs and guides to cater to the tourists.

“The objective of training locals was to maximise benefits to the community,” gewog officials said. “Well so far, we have been unable to reap all that benefits.”

Pema Tenzin said tour operators refused to use local services despite gewogs officials’ repeated pleas.

“They say it involved excessive expenses in hiring local chefs and guides,” he said.

Merak gup Gaydhen said that just training local chefs and guides was of no benefit to the communities unless their services are used.

The gewogs officials said they also urged tour operators to come in national dress while visiting the two communities of Merak and Sakteng, which stood as an embodiment of country’s efforts towards promoting its unique culture.

“Tourist guides claiming trekking in gho or kira inappropriate and uncomfortable is lame,” Pema Tenzin said. “Even senior civil servants and politicians trek to the communities in national dress.”

Gewog officials said while their plea fell on tour operators’ deaf ears tourism council ought should intervene.

“They should urge the tour operators to use only local guides and chefs while visiting Merak and Sakteng,” gup Gaydhen said. “The council must ensure that tour operators avail our services while they are in our communities.”

Not many tourists showed up in early spring though.