16th and 18th August 2011 – About 30 people representing various agencies (Government and non-government) such as Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED), Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Guide Association of Bhutan, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Phobjikha Environment Management Commission (PEMC), Wangdiphordang Dzongkhag Administration, Gross national Happiness Commission (GNHC) local business community, Local Government (LG) and the local communities attended the study tour cum consultative workshop in Phobjikha.
The three day long program was initiated by RSPN under its new CBST project in Phobjikha with the main objectives: To assess the situation in Phobjikha from the context of CBST- considering the available tourism products , services and opportunities and to recommend/provide practical guidance to the new CBST project based on the field assessments.
Numerous issues relating to tourism in Phobjikha were discussed among the participants ranging from tourism products and services to benefits of tourism to local people and tourism infrastructure and facilities in the Valley. One important point discussed was about promotion of Phobjikha as an authentic Bhutanese rural community which not only provides a general Gross National Happiness image but also helps in conserving/reviving the local culture and tradition. The project team from RSPN and Japan Environmental Education Forum explained about the CBST project and expressed their ideas on how to develop a people/community –centered project and how it would meaningfully help in the conservation of local environment and sustain local people’s livelihoods in the long run. However one of the main issues raised by the locals and ABTO/GAB was the lack of communication between the local home stay owners and the tour operators. Amongst others the qualities of a good guide was also discussed and how we can train and support the local guides to become a good guide.
The CBST project in Phobjikha is a three year project (2011-2013) funded by JICA in partnership with JEEF. It will be guided by a consortium of representatives called as Steering Committee (SC) members from TCB, ABTO, GAB, NRED, GNHC, PEMC, RSPN, Wangdue Dzongkhag Administration and LG. JEEF will provide the technical support in terms of guide training, souvenir development and the overall promotion of Phobjikha as an ecotourism destination.
Reported by: Tshering Phuntsho, RSPN