Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bhutan : Paro Tshechu sees a sharp drop in the number of tourists

April 7: The Paro Tshechu, one of the most popular festivals in the kingdom, has begun. Every year it attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. But this year, because of the global economic crisis, the festival is seeing a sharp drop in number of tourists. The slump has not only affected tour operators but also hoteliers and resort owners in Paro.

Thousands of people throng the Deyangkha ground as the Paro Tshechu begins. Usually there will be as many camera totting tourists in the Tshechu ground as people from Paro, Thimphu and other neighbouring dzongkhags. This year, there aren’t as many tourists.

The Tshechu is an important occasion for the people. Apart from the religious and cultural significance, the festival is an important social occasion. For the elderly, coming to the Tshechu is an act of devotion. The young come here to socialize and generally have a nice time. It is also an occasion to flaunt the sesho ghos and kiras. The fairer sex come bedecked with jewelry.

The Paro Tshechu attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. But this year, the situation is quite different. In the Dey-yang-kha ground, there aren’t as many tourists jostling among the crowd as they try and focus their cameras on the mask dancers or the atsaras joking with the people. The sitting gallery is mostly occupied by Bhutanese.

The Dzongkhag Administration Officer Tshewang Dorji has been coordinating the festival for the last few years. He told BBS that compared to the past years, tourist arrival at the Tsechu this year is minimal.

The economic slump has also hit hotels and resorts in Paro. There are over 40 resorts and hotels in Paro. Most of them remain packed during the Tshechu season. But this year, most of the proprietors and managers have the same story to share. Most of the rooms are lying vacant.

Tour operators, hoteliers, and resort owners are all reeling from the global economic crisis. For them, the Paro Tshechu this year will not be as festive as the previous years or as lucrative.

The Tshechu will end with the unfurling of Guru Thongdrel in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

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