Thursday, 28 May 2009

Bhutan : Tourism to come to Merak-Sakteng

27 May, 2009 - The brokpas (highlanders) of remote Merak and Sakteng will see more chilips (foreigners) and could possibly earn a few dollars with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) identifying it as a tourist destination.

On the directives of the Cabinet, which, in principle, approved a proposal to open up the remote community to tourism, the council carried out a study recently. “Merak and Sakteng fit positively in TCB’s policy of ‘high quality, low volume’ tourism,” said the council’s director general, Kezang Wangdi.

“By diversifying the product to nature from culture, there’s potential for tourism in the east, with seasonality and inevitable geographic impact also addressed,” he said.

He said that there would be regional balanced socio-economic development, controlled rural-urban migration and employment opportunities created in the country through it. “If we oversell culture, there’s great danger of destroying the cultural products,” he said. “There is good potential for nature-based tourism, such as trekking, rafting, bird watching, rock climbing and village walks in the east.”

The senior management team, during the trip to 7 dzongkhags in the east, interacted with local people, hoteliers and dzongkhag officials on their doubts, ideas and products, mainly focusing on how to promote tourism.

Close to the border with India’s Arunachal Pradesh, Merak and Sakteng are located about 50 miles east of Trashigang at an altitude of 3,000 m above sea level. From the nearest road, it takes two days to reach Merak, while Sakteng is a day’s walk.

With the domestic airstrip at Yonphula in Trashigang to be constructed by October, the journey to Merak and Sakteng, which takes about 6 days, will be shorter and take the tourists only 2 days to reach. “An airport at Yonphula is a complementary action for promoting tourism in the east,” said Kezang Wangdi, adding that, with the airstrip and the Guwahati trade route opened, Merak and Sakteng are accessible to tourism.

By Passang Norbu

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