Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division

 

INTRODUCTION

The Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division is one of the six functional Divisions under the Department of Forests and Park Services. The Division acts as a focal representative of the Department for all nature recreational and eco-tourism activities both within and outside the protected areas. The Division besides the Administration and Finance Section has three technical sections to assist the Department and the field offices in providing technical backstopping for various nature recreation and eco-tourism programmes. The technical sections are Survey and Eco-design section, Planning and product development section and Education and communication section. The Division is currently located below Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory near Hotel Riverview, Thimphu.

 

MANDATES:

As a focal representative of the Department for all nature recreational and eco-tourism activities both within and outside the protected areas, the Division is mandated to:

 

1.       Identify and secure appropriate areas for the benefit of the public for nature recreational and eco-tourism programmes;

2.       Develop policy framework, strategies, guidelines and standards for the establishment of nature recreational areas and eco-tourism programmes;

3.       Create database to regulate, monitor, evaluate and provide technical back-stopping to all field programmes on nature recreation and eco-tourism;

4.       Impart environmental education and awareness to encourage and increase the public support towards conservation.

 

Section I: Survey and Eco-design Section

Assessment of diversity is important for any recreational product so that the benefits of costs are maximized by the visitors. It is therefore important to conduct a detailed survey of the proposed area for its natural and cultural diversity and development implications on the surrounding communities. In order to compliment the aesthetic value of the area, various facilities that can aid the visitor in maximizing visit experiences need to be developed. Innovative facilities which are environment friendly in nature needs to be developed in order to maintain the environmental integrity of the area. The Section therefore concentrates to:

 

Activities:

1.       Identify appropriate recreational areas within PAs and Government Reserved Forests;

2.       Conduct preliminary survey of potential recreational areas;

3.       Conduct detailed survey of flora, fauna, cultural sites, geographical and geological features and other landscape features that will interest the visitors for visitation;

4.       Conduct socio-economic survey within the recreational areas;

5.       Conduct inventory of diversity and collections as appropriate - flora, fauna, geology, cultural sites, cultural practices, landscapes etc.

6.       Maintain database;

7.       Assist field offices in landscape design of facility areas so that the aesthetic value of the area is complimented;

8.       Design of environment friendly facilities –green technology;

9.       Design appropriate interpretation signages.

 

Section II: Planning and Product Development Section

Recognizing the Government’s need to open up various areas of Bhutan for nature based tourism, formulating appropriate policies, strategies and mechanisms is crucial to enable proper management planning of nature recreation and ecotourism programmes in the country. While cultural tourism is developed to a certain extent, diversification of nature based tourism products and its value addition is yet another area that should be accorded due importance in its development.

 

Activities:

1.       In the context of national development goals and objectives (the need), plan for creation and identification of new recreational areas within the country;

2.       Formulate policies, strategies, guidelines and standards for the establishment of recreational areas and ecotourism programmes;

3.       Development of various products (bush walks, discovery programs, landscape and scenery, camping, fishing, trekking etc.) for visitors in recreational areas;

4.       Develop a national fee structure according to the standard of products and facilities;

5.       Formulate additional regulatory instruments besides the existing Acts and rules;

6.       Monitor the development of additional recreational areas, quality of facilities and products, visitation volume and frequencies, visitation  impacts, and economic returns;

7.       Provide training of guides and other beneficiaries in nature based tourism, health and hygiene, local product development, rural tourism development etc;

8.       Provide training to the staff of the field offices in visitor management and on ecotourism;

9.       Conduct socio-economic impact assessment, environmental impact assessment etc.

10.   Develop and assist in formulation of Business Plans for recreational areas.

 

Section III: Education and Communication Section

Bhutan is a biological hotspot and has been known for centuries for its pro-conservation ethics. The essence of establishing nature recreational areas is not only to provide venues for recreation but can also be centres for disseminating environmental education. In this era of global warming and climate change, recreational learning can be an effective means to provide nature education to the visitors.  The Education and Communication Section works towards:

 

Activities:

1.       Development of product timelines and calendars;

2.       Marketing of nature based tourism products through appropriate media – newspapers, webs, brochures etc.;

3.       Provide visitor management services – attend to national and international enquiries, issue of permits;

4.       Collaborate  and liaise with national and international agencies in promoting Bhutan’s eco-tourism products, certification of products etc.;

5.       Design and develop products for education purposes like brochures, maps, information pamphlets etc.;

6.       Design programs for recreational learning that will cater to the needs at various categories of audiences – for instance a program for School Grade V wherein some components of national EVS curriculum are included, programs for international visitors, program for national elders;

7.       Assist development of Visitor Information Centres in Protected Areas and other areas;

8.       Dissemination of information to the public and other agencies;

9.        Formulate appropriate messages for interpretation and signages.