The Board Directors of ABTO (Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators) on 2nd December 2016 had a bilateral meeting with Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF). Such bilateral meetings are part of series of meetings planned with relevant agencies such as Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Dratshang Lhuentshog etc…
During the meeting with Hon’ble Lyonpo, MoAF, following issues were raised and discussed: –
1. Power lines along the trekking routes
e.g. Jumolhari Trek and its impact on trekkers/ tourism.
i. Extension of power lines could avoid the normal trekking routes.
ii. Prior consultation could be initiated.
2. Protection of birding sites
i. Protection and development of birding sites
ii. Consultation with stakeholders
3. Standardization of campsite/ camping ground fees/ Management. Identification of alternative campsites
i. Standardization of campsite/ camping ground fees in consultation with stakeholders.
ii. Identification of alternative campsites/ camping grounds.
4. Takin zoo, Thimphu: Inclusion of toilet charges with the entrance fee.
i. Usage of facilities like toilets inside the premises could be part of the entrance fee or included in the fee as only ticketed people are allowed.
5. Waste/ Littering:
i. Chief Forest Officers and Park Rangers to sensitize and create awareness on waste management.
6. Entry and Exit at Panbang, Manas and Nganglam
i. Facilitation of immigration entry and exit stamp at Panbang/ Mathanguri and Nganglam.
7. Recommendation on Adventure and Nature Tourism Products
- Nature walks connecting villages and communities living in the protected areas.
- Canopy tours (suspension bridges connecting from tree to tree to get view at tree height level clubbed with rope slings).
- Mountain biking trails in the parks.
- Birding with proper hideouts.
- Orchid tours.
- Botanical tours.
- Tower hideouts to view animals and views at strategic locations. For example, it could be above salt lakes and ponds, which attract animals for water.
- Rafting and kayaking and in some areas, canoeing.
- Wild flowers tours.
- Butterfly tours.
- Catch and release fishing
- West-to-east trekking routes alongside the national highway with options of entry and exit at various intervals. This could serve for multiple options in trekking and it could also be explored for biking and other cultural hikes.
Hon’ble Lyonpo assured of his full support on all the issues raised and will take immediate action on those concerning his Ministry and will raise the other issues with relevant Ministries. Hon’ble Lyonpo agreed to get back to ABTO within a month’s time.
Hon’ble Lyonpo instructed ABTO to come up with:
1. List of campsites including alternative camping grounds
2. List of Birding sites
Therefore, the Association would like to request if you could kindly provide the above information which will be submitted to Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, which in turn will include in their Rules/ regulations and guidelines and also for further instructions to the CFOs of the Protected Areas.
Hon’ble Lyonpo also requested to inform tour operators not to take and feed stray dogs while trekking. The stray dogs that has accompanied the trekking groups and stayed back in the highlands are creating nuisance to the highlanders and their livestocks.