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GNH principles in tourism – the Takin festival
Administrator, April 08, 2011
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Well done! What a sensible thing to do. It will showcase the special heritage of your region in the form of the Takin festival, bring about awareness on the conservation of the rich biodiversity you have, and help preserve and promote the local culture. And targeted during the tourist off-season? This is certainly an innovative approach to help stimulate opportunities when tourist business is traditionally low invoking the GNH principles in GNH. The Takin is a special animal only found in Bhutan. Therefore, Bhutanese people should be really proud to showcase the national treasure. Whilst other animal species such as the Tasmanian tiger (Tylacenius cynocephalus) and the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus hariisii) are doomed to extinction, the Takin population is healthy and flourishing. Again, this is encouraging evidence that nature conservation has been successful, which is one of the four pillars of GNH, since the natural environment must be healthy in order to support wildlife. Being proud of your rich cultural heritage through highlighting and showcasing this to tourists is another ingenious way to celebrate local culture. The display of locally produced cultural artifacts, textiles and dairy products, as well as medicinal education on cordyceps, will not only promote and rejuvenate local culture such as khuru, dego and yak and horse riding, but more importantly, this revival will help further sustain the culture. This is yet another significant evidence that the second GNH pillar of preservation and promotion of culture is actively pursued. Such an approach in tourism (Takin Festival) suggests that careful planning has been done to sustain the local environment and businesses in terms of ‘low volume, low impact’. As it is a traditionally low season, a small increase in tourist numbers would be welcomed, and at the same time, limiting this to a two-day festival program will have a low impact on the community. And more importantly, low impact on the Takin wildlife population, since wildlife needs to be respected and protected. This mindful planning, in my view, suggests good governance, invoking the third GNH pillar. Whilst tourism provides sources of revenue and job opportunities in helping to improve the economic development of a nation, some caution must be taken. Failure to do so may result in economic exploitation at the expense of its socio-cultural heritage (examples of acculturation exist in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, to name a few). It would be interesting to see the outcome of this festival in terms of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, this being the fourth GNH pillar. For this to happen, there must be a ‘balancing act’ to spread the socio-economic benefits equitably across sections of the local community. This is the challenge for the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the people of Tsharijathang, Gasa. By Simon Teoh, Via bhutanobserver.bt

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