Domestic tourism kicks off amid skepticism

Eco Tourism at the forefront

The Guide Association of Bhutan has launched a landmark eco-tourism training program aimed at enhancing eco-tourism across five key dzongkhags: Zhemgang, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Lhuntse, and Mongar. The theme of the three-day training, “Familiarizing the Tourist Guide with Eco-Tourism Products in 5 Dzongkhags,” underscores its focus on acquainting local tourist guides with unique eco-tourism offerings in these regions.

“This initiative marks a watershed moment as Bhutan conducts its first-ever formal training for eco-tourism guides, signaling a significant stride towards structured and sustainable tourism. Historically, eco-tourism in Bhutan has been informal, lacking the organization needed to effectively benefit local communities. By introducing systematic measures, this training aims to establish an organized and authentic eco-tourism experience that generates tangible benefits for locals,” Chairman and Founder of GAB, Garab Dorji, said.

The comprehensive training program equips guides with skills to effectively market local eco-tourism products and experiences, which will soon be commercialized. Activities such as exploring paddy fields, participating in cultivation practices, and attending traditional marriage ceremonies will be monetized, offering tourists a rich and immersive cultural experience while ensuring economic benefits for local communities.

The decision to package these experiences reflects a dual objective: boosting tourism in Bhutan’s eastern regions and providing economic incentives for guides and local inhabitants alike. By integrating these authentic local activities into the tourism framework, the program seeks to foster a sustainable and profitable eco-tourism sector.

Funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this training underscores a commitment to promoting sustainable tourism practices that benefit all stakeholders. As Bhutan continues to attract eco-conscious travelers, this initiative ensures that tourism development aligns with the needs and aspirations of local communities, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between visitors and residents.

Scheduled to conclude in two days, this training is poised to empower participants to transform the eco-tourism landscape in Bhutan’s eastern dzongkhags, setting a new standard for community-driven, sustainable tourism practices.

Meanwhile, eco-tourism training and familiarization trip for tour guides to 5 Dzongkhags was funded from the UNDP/ GEF Ecotourism Project “mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into tourism sector in Bhutan” being implemented by the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment.

By Sonam Lhamo, Thimphu