The government’s East Development Initiative (EDI) which aims to bring about economic development in the six eastern Dzongkhags of Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar will also be relying on bringing Tourists to the East in much larger numbers.
To do this, the report says that the Department of Civil Aviation, Drukair Corporation and Bhutan Airlines shall explore the possibility of flying from Guwahati and Bagdora to Yongphula directly to spread the number of tourists in the East with attractive fare package.
For initial one year, domestic travel from Paro to Yongphula could be offered free as subsidy from the Government.
Further, to ease the accessibility and attract more tourists, scheduled helicopter services could be initiated with highly subsidized fare for the eastern region tour package.
To encourage tour operators to market eastern region as tourist destinations, certain rebates can be considered by the government to the tour operators. The threshold of rebates and operational mechanism will be discussed with stakeholders as a priority and implemented.
To attract more visitors to visit the eastern region, the government shall consider freeing tariff for the eastern regions tour packages. The government will only collect the royalty and visa fees and rest of the expenses for the tourists will depend on the kind of service being offered by the local tour operators.
To facilitate the development of tourism infrastructures and services in Eastern Bhutan, the EDI strongly recommends opening of Regional TCB office at Samdrup Jongkhar.
The report says that a detailed Incentive Proposal will have to be prepared by TCB and other relevant sectors after intensive consultations with the tour operators and hoteliers. It says that without incentives for the private sector and investors, it will be a challenge to develop tourism facilities in the eastern region.
Tourism Products that are very unique for the eastern region will be promoted and marketed besides the usual tourists attractions such as Dzongs and the routine festivals.
The government will also diversify the tourism products of the East. It says that since some parts of eastern region are still new to tourism, there is huge potential for the community-based tourism (CBT). The government will explore other options like Salt Route Trek, which covers three dzongkhags (Pemagatshel, Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar, the lotus valley trek route in Pemagatshel, the Dongla trek from Trashiyangtse to Lhuentse and the Ajaney Trek in Monggar.
To cash in on the growing global popularity of holidays on a farm and home stays the government will provide support in terms of sufficient sanitary facilities.
The report says there is potential for Rafting and kayaking activities in the eastern region, which can be explored and promoted. E.g. Tourists can go rafting from Yurung in Pemagatshel to Pangbang and Manas under Zhemgang dzongkhag. Bicycle tourism will also be explored with new biking routes.
The government will support in creating new trekking routes in lower altitudes to counteract seasonality by offering new products during winter.
There will also be support in developing campsites and viewing locations with trails specifically for bird watchers in the East. The government will also support initiatives that promote butterfly watching as another tourist product in the East.
Another kind of special interest tour that could be developed is the “textile tours”.
The government will also promote heritage tours of historical structures and homes. Therefore, the support will be given for maintaining “naktsangs” and it will be promoted as a tour package.
The report says that the Eastern region has a lot of unique and important local festivals that need to be promoted and marketed. The government will support these festivals and package them as a tourist product.
Other ideas are promotion of wellness centers , spiritual tourism and also use of ropeways.
The report says that Theme Park such as Water world in other countries could be established in one of the dzongkhags in eastern region where the weather is suitable. It says this will go a long way in enhancing domestic tourism in Bhutan.
To promote domestic tourism the government will develop the Singye Dzong and Aja Ney trails, roadside amenities and other facilities.