Study Finds Homestays And Eco-tourism Helped Preserve Bhutan’s Rich Traditions, Pristine Environment And More
The evaluation found that 98 percent of the homestays used exclusive traditional products like local food products and locally made furniture.
By Dechen Tshomo | Kuensel
According to an evaluation on the impact of ecotourism on local Bhutanese communities, the income generated from home stays and campsites has helped improve the economic situations of the families involved.
Focussing on village home-stays and community managed campsites, the evaluation by the Gross National Happiness Commission was carried out in April this year.
Aims of the assessment of the impact of ecotourism on local communities
The goal is to assess the impact of ecotourism on the livelihood of the local communities and its contribution to the conservation of Bhutan’s environment and culture.
About 95 percent of the homestay operators said that the income generated from the home stays have helped the community earn alternative sources of income. They have also witnessed an improvement in the preservation of Bhutan’s rich tradition and culture.
Statistical breakdown of homestays by province and income
On an average, the annual earnings from homestays in the country range between Nu 20,000 and Nu 50,000.
The evaluation also states that homestays in Zhemgang can earn as high as Nu 400,000 annually because the families receive more Indian tourists from across the border.
Homestays in Zhemgang and Paro earn the highest income with an annual earning of above Nu 300,000 annually. This is followed by homestays in Wangdue, Thimphu and Lhuentse with annual earnings ranging between Nu 100,000 and Nu 200,000.
About 57 percent of the earnings were made from bed nights spent by the visitors in the homestays while 23 percent was earned from both bed nights and guide services.
About nine percent of the income was earned through bed nights and other services such as food, beverages and other facilities used during the homestays.
Income earned from campsites
Similarly, the campsites make an annual gross income of about Nu 273,000 around the Nubji-Korphu Trek and Nu 385,000 to Nu 435,000 along the Jomolhari Trek.
The main source of income for the campsites is also from the night holds spent by the visitors and on service fees for local guides, porters and ponies, cultural programmes, stone bath facilities and other hospitality and entertainment services provided by the campsite operators.
About 59 percent of the homestay respondents supported that there is benefit to the households in the nearby areas while 41 percent said that there is no benefit to the surrounding area.
According to the evaluation, this could be because individual households operate most of the homestays and there is not much coordination and teamwork to bring about an overall improvement in the community.
Businesses and communities which reap benefits as a result of homestays
However, it was found that certain business activities like the sale of local vegetables, opening of grocery shops and bars and sale of locally made handicrafts were developed in some of these homestay areas.
In the case of campsites, the respondents said that there was benefit to the nearby areas in terms of business development, employment opportunities, improvement and development of facilities, infrastructure and services, leading to an overall improvement in the living conditions of the rural people.
About 89 percent of the respondents said the ecotourism programme had brought about positive effect to the lives of the people in terms of supplementing their living conditions while 64 percent said that there is an improvement in the lives of the people because of the programme.
Respondents said that the earnings from the homestays supported them in sending their children to schools and assist them in buying household items.
Positive outcome of ecotourism
“The impact of ecotourism is present in almost all the areas as can be seen in terms of boosting the economy and business activities of the community, the revival of old tradition and culture such as re-introduction of some of the local festivals, coming up with unique activities and products from each of the communities,” it states.
The evaluation found that 98 percent of the homestays used exclusive traditional products like local food products and locally made furniture and household items to promote and preserve their own tradition and culture.
“This is a significant impact of ecotourism to bring about the preservation of culture when the country and the global world is facing challenges in maintaining their culture due to rapid developments,” it states.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.