Sunday, 20 November, 2011

Tourism and Local Community in Bhutan

Tourism development in Bhutan since 1974 played an important role in country’s economy and social wellbeing. Today, after Hydro Power the Tourism industry remains one of the major source of revenue genarator in our country. In 2009-2010, the figure stands at 19.8 % in GDP contribution.

Tourism Industry over the past decades has defiantly benefited the people and the country. Today, there are more than 400 registered tour operators, more than 100 hotels across the country and thousands of employees benefited in the country especially in the hot spots area of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Bumthang. Besides, the royalties that goes back to government treasure plough back indirectly to people in the form of social benefits like health and education etc.

However, the benefits to the rural people largely remain indirect and people failed to realize the importance of the industry. The incorporation of tourism plans in Local Government plan has never been realized and participation of local people in the process is very limited. Still it is consider a central driven plans and infact the direct benefits goes only to the section of people.

Government realizing the consequences has come up with measures including the model of  developing  a community based and Eco-toursim. The Tourism Council of Bhutan has drafted Tourism Bill.(Not yet presented to Parliament) which will help Local Government prepare their own Dzongkhag Tourism Development Plan and manage the tourism resources. The initiatives are being taken and some of them includes, pilot project at Haa and Zhemngang Dzongkhag, Phobjikha project, Nabji-Korphu trail and few projects in Tashiyangtse Dzongkhag. The products includes trekking trails, Bird watching, heritage villages, farm houses, road side ammunities etc.

The Tourism development and local community will have to go together in longer interest of the industry and remain a vital mainly due to followings;

·       to create a sense of ownership
·       manage the resources,
·       Direct benefits from industry and
·       Local Participation in process.

Local people need to understand the importance of industry and with government objectives of diversifying the products and address the issue of seasonality, the involvement of local people is undeniable fact and very important. Local community has to feel the sense of ownership and manage their own resources. And until, communities are directly benefited it will be difficult to involve them in process and make them feel the sense of ownership and responsibilities.  

Perhaps, at the moment since Local government do not have the required capacity and knowledge, people may not demand or expect much from the industry but that will not last long and it is already evident from some of the Dzongkhags like Paro and Bumthang.

Local people will defiantly demand more in times to come and without a clear system of involving the local people there would be possibilities of creating an unfavourable situation which will hamper the growth of the industry.
Without the Societal approach taken into consideration, the present trend will led to a volatile situation where there could be lots of conflict of interest and may hamper the longterm interest of economy.

Considering the importance of industry, it is high time that government gives a priority and pass the laws which governs the industry and takes all stakeholders into board. The involvement of local government and community in tourism industry cannot be ignored for longer time.   

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