Zhemgang: Gem of Natural Tourism in East Bhutan

The SHINE team, led by Dr. Robert Wimmer from GrAT, recently visited Zhemgang Dzongkhag to present the relevant stakeholders the designed itineraries which encompass the diverse potential tourism attractions, and to consult them about pragmatic challenges in establishing the local supply chain for the package products. The team visited the Agriculture (fruits and vegetables), Livestock (dairy), Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP), Handicraft, and Village Home Stay (VHS) groups to investigate the production facilities, quantity and quality.

Through the bilateral meeting with the Zhemgang local governmental unit, Governor Chimi Dorji and the Dzongkhag Planning Officer confirmed that the SHINE project and their Community-Based Tourism Action Plan (CBTAP) share direction, and they will more actively integrate producer groups and cooperatives in their programme to benefit from the SHINE interventions to boost their production. Particularly, their communities are in need of capacity building in product development. Trong Heritage Village was recommended as a model village candidate of SHINE in the coming years, considering its accessibility, preserved traditional buildings and rich cultural values.

The field trip was also an opportunity for the team to personally experience various tourism attractions in the district, like Duenmang Tasha chhu, the Golden Langur Trail, the White Bellied Heron Eco-Lodge and local cuisine. Based on their findings and stakeholder dialogues, more ideas on how those attractions can be integrated and promoted in the tourism packages were generated. For specific technical challenges, the team sets a follow-up plan. Material, product samples for further research, and visual material for the upcoming publication was collected. New product ideas, such as flavoured whey drink made of the by-product from cheese and butter production, were presented to the dairy group. They are delighted with the idea and want to try it as a new income opportunity. However, the lack of processing machines, packaging and labelling design, and marketing were shared as barriers to overcome.  

A workshop was conducted in participation of twelve homestay owners in Buli, where they verified their need for training on hospitality and quality guest services, including preparation and serve of authentic cuisine. SHINE is planning a capacitation programme to support better VHS. Their need for fair promotion and marketing will be partially addressed by the upcoming SHINE mobile app and online shop platform.

A similar kind of field visit to other target Dzongkhags is envisaged in the near future.

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This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the implementing partners and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.