Within the next two years Chhukha Dzongkhag 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 on April this year.
According to the Destination Chhukha Tourism Action Plan 2021-2025, the Action Plan would enable Chhukha to establish itself as a favorable winter destination for international as well as domestic tourists.
Identification 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.
The Economic Development Sector of the Dzongkhag Administration has been delegated with the responsibility of undertaking tourism development activities. The present collaboration with the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal, is the first step in realizing the potential of Chhukha in the tourism sphere.
The action plan states that tourism is considered vital for the success of many economies around the world.
“It has the power to boost revenues, create employment opportunities, develop the infrastructure of a country, incentivize the protection of the cultural and natural heritage, and promote goodwill between different countries,” the Action Plan states.
The plan further reveals that the extent of the reliance of economies on tourism has been further underscored during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in which the tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit throughout its value chain.
While tourism matters, the action plan states that the need to scale up climate action also remains urgent for those in charge of developing the sector as emissions could rapidly rebound once tourism operations restart.
Though tourism has had a significant impact on the country, its development still remains concentrated in only a few dzongkhags of the country. To change this trend and promote equitable distribution of tourists, the action plan states that the government is exploring various strategies to spread tourism development to all the dzongkhags of the country.
Thus, the present 12th plan of the government has identified tourism as one of its flagship programs. Acknowledging the accelerated adverse changes in climate the tourism development programs and initiatives will adopt a low carbon pathway.
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.
The Dzongkhag is endowed with several advantages for tourism development. These include its location in the western part of the country where the maximum arrivals of visitors are concentrated.
The 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 also stand among some benefits.
Although tourism products are in general similar in all the gewogs of the Dzongkhag, 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 under three strategic components which include planning and development of products and services, promotion and marketing and also management and sustainability.
Meanwhile, 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 the Dzongkhag to confidently navigate itself on the journey to sustainable tourism development and enhanced socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental benefits.
While in the region, Chhukha, along with Samtse, Haa and Paro, fall within the Kanchenjunga Landscape (KL), one of the transboundary landscape initiatives identified and promoted by the ICIMOD in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. The KL stretches 25,081 km2 across the western and southwestern parts of Bhutan accounts to 23 percent, the states of Sikkim and West Bengal in India accounting to 56 percent, and the eastern part of Nepal with 21 percent. At the heart of the landscape lies Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, that sustains vital Himalayan rivers and watersheds.
Meanwhile, the Mount Kanchenjunga is considered sacred by local communities and is revered by Tibetan, Sikkimese and Kiranti people. Thus, promotion of mountain tourism within a scenario of transboundary cooperation offers scope for tourism development in Chhukha.