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Tourism: Promoting Destination Chhukha

Action Plan launched for the development of tourism in the Dzongkhag

By Tashi Namgyal

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in collaboration with Chhukha Dzongkhag recently launched a document titled โ€œDestination Chhukha: Tourism Action Plan (2021-2025)โ€.

The document is a guide and list of activities to undertake in the 11 Gewogs of Chhukha Dzongkhag to develop tourism products and promote tourism in the Dzongkhag in the next 5 years.

In the 12th Five Year Plan (2018โ€“2023), Chhukha aims to increase tourist arrivals by 500 numbers from the baseline. The first step in realizing this target is to have a Tourism Action Plan in place. The draft document was endorsed at the 8th Dzongkhag Tshogdu session held in April this year.

โ€œThis Tourism Action Plan will enable Chhukha to establish itself as a favorable winter destination for international as well as domestic tourists,โ€ according to the Chhukha Dzongdag, Minjur Dorji.

He said, โ€œIdentification of ecotourism sites and development of new trekking routes are ongoing. Tourism development is also recognized as an integral part of the local economic development strategy in the Dzongkhag.โ€

The main sources of income for the people of Chhukha Dzongkhag are livestock rearing, vegetable farming and cash crop cultivation.

โ€œIt will be a major contribution to improving the livelihood of the people in Chhukha and contribute to the happiness and prosperity of the Dzongkhag in years to come,โ€ the Dzongdag said.

โ€œThe main bottleneck currently facing the Dzongkhag is under development of the tourism products and the related tourism infrastructure. Most of the tourists entering the country through Phuentsholing travel straight through Chhukha to the better developed tourist destinations in the northern districts due to lack of tourist attractions along the way. There is need, therefore, to take advantage of the vast untapped potential for product development along the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway,โ€ he added.

In 2018, Chhukha received 2,490 tourists, which is 3.99% of the total number of tourists who visited the country during the year. Phuentsholing, which is the main land route to Bhutan, runs through Chhukha.

It thus carries huge potential for tourism development in Chhukha as more than 55% of the tourists enter the country through Phuentsholing. The Dzongkhag also has rich biodiversity in terms of flora and fauna.

According to the document, the scope for ecotourism development in Chhukha is immense but it has only been scantily explored to date. There are multiple trekking routes which can be developed while river rafting has been recommended in the lower parts of Wangchhu and Amochhu by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

In addition, Chhukha has the potential to serve as a favorite winter destination for tourists. The warmer parts of Chhukha are already gaining popularity among the Bhutanese as a spot to spend their winters.

In accordance with the tourism development aspirations of the government, the Tourism Action Plan of Chhukha aims to promote responsible tourism that is economically, ecologically, culturally, and locally sustainable and fits into the overarching developmental vision of Gross National Happiness of the country.

Chhukha Dzongkhag is endowed with several advantages for tourism development. These include its location in the western part of the country where themaximum arrivals of visitors are concentrated, ease of accessibility both by air and land to all market sources, a preferable winter destination during periods that are considered off season for other western dzongkhags, and diversity of culture and nature-based products.

The Dzongkhag has 11 gewogs. Although the tourism products are in general similar in all of them, there are also significant differences in the products among the gewogs that offer opportunities to develop unique selling propositions (USPs).

Therefore, the objective is for each gewog to prioritize one USP so that collectively Chhukha can market a diversity of products and services that would enhance visitor experience and maximize opportunities for the locals while contributing toward low carbon tourism.

The Action Plan is designed for a period of five years from 2021 to 2025. It is hoped that this period will be adequate to put in place the road map for Chhukha Dzongkhag to confidently navigate itself on the journey to sustainable tourism development and enhanced socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental benefits.

The project was supported by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal in the context of Kanchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KLCDI) Bhutan related tourism strategic document development.

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