Identifying The Unique Selling Points Of Each District Of Bhutan To Promote A More ‘Balanced' Tourism
The different dzongkhags (districts) are also identifying various unique tourism products in their communities to promote tourism.
By Tshering Palden | Kuensel
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is working on a plan and strategy to make the sector the number one contributor to its economy, instead of relying heavily on the hydropower sector.
To promote a more balanced tourism in the country, the Tourism Council of Bhutan is proposing a flagship programme in five identified dzongkhags in the 12th Five-Year Plan.
The government will focus more in a few identified dzongkhags (districts) such as Dagana, Gasa, Lhuentse, Zhemgang and Samtse. However, the council is yet to present the proposal to the cabinet.
Photo: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2017
This information was shared at the first National Tourism Conference held in Thimphu from 27-28 February.
The TCB stated that the first presentation for the proposed flagship programme was made to the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC).
Plans to spread tourism more evenly throughout the different districts of Bhutan
“The dzongkhags are identified by looking at the low arrivals of tourists. The other reason is on the way to these dzongkhags, other dzongkhags will be covered too,” said Dorji Dhradrul, the Director General of TCB.
He added that under the programme, the other 15 districts will also have specific projects lined up.
Source: Youtube/Mario Scrittore Biondi
Building infrastructures, developing more products and hosting crowd-pulling events such as the Black-necked Crane and Royal Highland festivals are some of the strategies to promote a more ‘balanced’ tourism.
Promoting the unique products and features of each dzongkhags
The different dzongkhags are also identifying various unique tourism products in their communities to promote tourism.
The Foreign Minister, Dr Tandi Dorji said that the local governments should work on developing unique selling points.
He said that under the new flagship programme in the tourism sector that the government is initiating, every gewog should develop and promote its unique selling point to attract tourists.
The highly-prized cordyceps from the highlands of Laya in Bhutan.
Photo: Bhutan Natural
He said, “We cannot keep demanding that tourism be spread out without providing something for the tourists to do.”
Challenges faced in developing tourism in certain areas of Bhutan
However, restrictions imposed on foreigners visiting certain places, besides sacred areas have posed as major challenges to the local authorities.
The role of the Home Ministry of Bhutan is to sustain the tradition and culture of the country.
The Home Minister, Sherub Gyeltshen said that there were issues in developing tourism products at the village level because of religious sentiments and prejudices.
“We must maintain the sanctity of the annual festivals such as drubchens and tshechus,” the Lyonpo said.
Different versions of festivals and cultural products have to be developed in consultation with the religious community of Bhutan and the communities for foreign visitors.
Photo: Bhutan Tourism Monitor 2017
“We have not thought of doing that but considering the significance of generating revenue, there is a need for such measures,” he said.
Strategies needed to make tourism sustainable in Bhutan
“If we don’t have a niche in the market, tourism cannot be sustainable.”
Sherub Gyeltshen added that Bhutan has plenty to offer tourists, such as the distinctive local breeds of livestock and environmental attributes, besides its exotic traditions and cultures.
For instance, the local species of cattle have a larger significance than producing milk alone.
“However, with change, the commercial aspects are gaining priority over religious sentiments and belief systems and hybrid cattle are now imported.”
Should the Bhutanese lose focus on the larger interest of protecting the original local identities, the country could gradually lose out even on tourism.
But the renewed impetus on tourism could change this and give the country some hope, the Minister said.
“If we can keep the belief systems strong, maintain a vibrant tradition and culture, no other country can compete with us.”
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.