11–29 March: Rangeland Resource Management eco-tourism mission to Bhutan (Wangchuk Centennial Park)

In response to a request from the Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan, an ICIMOD ecotourism mission, comprised of four members from China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, visited Wangchuk Centennial Park from 11 to 29 March 2011. The main objectives of the mission were to present international experiences in ecotourism development and management in national parks in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, and to identify ecotourism development opportunities in Wangchuk Centennial Park. The mission organised a workshop on ecotourism at Thimphu for national policy makers as well as technical counterparts, and a two-day workshop in Bumthang for local stakeholders. The workshops were followed by a field study to identify and assess the ecotourism potential of Wangchuk Centennial Park. The outputs of the mission included:
  1. Presentations and the sharing of technical knowledge with staff from Wangchuk Centennial Park and other national parks in Bhutan;
  2. Review of the draft guidelines for ecotourism development in the protected areas of Bhutan, as well as guidelines related to farm stays;
  3. Three feasibility studies for tourism product development (cultural products, community products and nature based products); and
  4. Detailed report on ecotourism development opportunities in Wangchuk Centennial Park and strategic recommendations to capitalise on these opportunities.
The recommendations were debriefed in a half-day meeting chaired by the Minister of Agriculture on 28 March 2011. The strategy was very well received and taken as a blueprint for further ecotourism development in other protected areas in Bhutan.