Eco-Call has provided services to complete the following projects:
1. Tourism Development plan for Eastern Bhutan
Tourism forms an important part of the economy for Bhutan. However the major visitation is concentrated in the western part of the country. The need to increase visitation to the east is seen as a priority to support the economy and provide benefits to the people of the east. Spearheaded by the Tourism Council of Bhutan with financial support provided by the Austrian government, Eco-Call partnered with Beyond Green Travel LLC a consultancy firm based in the US to develop the plan. During the study period of over 4 months the work involved field trips to the sites, meetings/workshops with all stakeholders including local communities, reviewing of past works to achieve the final deliverable of a comprehensive plan document for tourism development in the East from product development to marketing. The final report is available with the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
2. Bhutan Green Hotel Guidelines
The rapid tourism development in the country has led to the development of many hotels and other service providers for tourists. The need to promote healthy practices and reduce adverse impacts is becoming increasingly vital. Recognizing this the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) implemented an EU supported project titled ‘Low Carbon Tourism Project’ in partnership with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and the National Environment Commission (NEC). Eco-Call in partnership with International expert drafted the green hotel guidelines based on the GSTC model. A draft copy of the guidelines is available with ABTO.
3. Ecotourism Development in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan
The Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) located in the south of Bhutan harboring rich biological diversity is the first officially designated protected area of Bhutan. Recognizing the tourism potential in and around RMNP several isolated initiatives have been undertaken to tap the tourism opportunity. However till date no concrete plan has been developed. WWF who has been a long standing donor for RMNP is also keen to advocate conservation travel as a means to promote conservation through tourism. WWF has pursued Conservation Travel as a key strategy in its mission to build a future where people live in harmony with nature . Conservation Travel is sustainable tourism that connects the traveler with nature and supports its protection by ensuring benefits from tourism investment flow to the local stewards of wildlife and wild lands. The first rapid assessment of conservation travel readiness was completed by Eco-Call in partnership with Solimar International, a US based sustainable tourism consultancy firm. Subsequently in 2016 follow up actions is expected to continue through a TCB project supported by WWF.
4. Review of the Tourism Policy of Bhutan
The tourism policy of Bhutan based on the principles of ‘High value Low impact’ has been operating successfully for many years. However the need to take advantage and adapt to changing market scenarios is felt necessary. TCB as the apex tourism body for the government had requested the World Bank to support this review. The world Bank in partnership with Solimar International, Eco-Call, and TCB conducted the review.
5. Low Carbon Tourism project – Post project evaluation.
Increasingly as tourism develops in Bhutan it is imperative that appropriate interventions are taken to ensure that the path to its sustainability is pursued. Comprehending this aspiration and committed to promulgate the promotion of responsible tourism practices, the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) initiated the low carbon tourism project with the support of EU. The main aim of the project was to “promote sustainable production and consumption practices across the tourism value chain of Bhutan coupled with sustainable livelihood development”. The project is aligned with the Royal Government of Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its commitment to remain carbon neutral. The project commissioned in 2012 was completed in October, 2015. The post project evaluation was conducted by Eco-Call.
6. Rekindling the sacred trail – a community based ecotourism initiative by the Youth Development Fund (YDF).
Considering the challenges being faced by the youth and recognizing their vital role in shaping the destiny of Bhutan, the Youth Development Fund http://www.bhutanyouth.org/ under the dynamic leadership of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck continuously strives to empower, support and inspire the youth. Various livelihood opportunities are being explored to strengthen the economic and social opportunities for the youth. Rural to urban migration continues to rise leaving many empty houses in the villages as the elusive search for better opportunities in the urban areas continue. Perceiving this adverse reality with many of the youth being displaced and the cultural heritage under threat YDF has initiated the concept of ‘My Gakhid village’ (meaning my happiness village). This noble initiative seeks to empower youth through development of livelihood skills. The expected skills that have been identified to develop are arts and crafts (including painting, woodcarving, and embroidery), bamboo weaving, tea making, and tailoring. To incentivize and complement the development of these skills the development of community based ecotourism is seen as an opportunity. Tourism, besides creating a market for these products and providing both tangible and intangible benefits to the local people it will in the process instill a pride among our youth in preserving our rich cultural heritage. However, tourism if not developed properly can also lead to many negative impacts. In order to avoid the pitfalls and reap the positive benefits it is critical to develop ecotourism based on sound planning and management. Eco-Call because of our experience and knowledge in this field has been requested by YDF to draw up a tourism action plan along with providing awareness and training opportunities. The pilot site will be the cluster of villages below Dochula pass towards the sacred Chimmi Lhakhang along the ancient trail, the route that was once used by lam Drukpa Kunley. The development of a good ecotourism plan/strategy is expected to give impetus to this enlightened vision of ‘My Gakidh Village’.
7. Capacity building on handling of Emergency and rescue services in promoting safety in tourism development.
Recognizing the need to promote safety in tourism the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) with financial assistance from the Austrian Development Agency initiated a training to build capacity on handling of Emergency and rescue services. The idea was to train about 35 people from different sectors as the core group who would become trainers to train over 200 people. The training conducted for a week hired 6 experts from the Indian Himalayan centre for adventure and Eco-tourism (IHCAE) based in Sikkim (India). Ecocall did the overall coordination besides conducting the training workshop and also helped to produce the draft guidelines for handling emergency and rescue services.
8. Training Needs Assessment
The Government of Netherlands under the Sustainable Tourism Development Asia project is supporting the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to conduct a training needs assessment. The aim of the project is to increase the number of tourists from the markets of the European Union to Bhutan by strengthening the capacity of Business Support Organizations (BSOs), specifically TCB. The tourism programme in Bhutan has the specific objectives to align the strategic vision of tourism stakeholders in Bhutan and to increase the quality of the service level of the Tourist Council Bhutan, more specifically to give guidance to a team of TCB staff to perform their own training needs assessment. The ultimate objective is that TCB is able to deliver a training needs assessment themselves which identifies how to implement an adequate training system which guarantees sufficient quality for the sector (tour operators, hospitality, management, guides, hotels). EcoCall is assisting the international expert to help TCB finalize the training needs assessment.
9. Study on Tourism Carrying Capacity
The community based sustainable tourism project implemented by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has been designed as a part of the conservation and sustainable livelihood program to harness the tourism potential of Phobjikha Conservation Area and Haa’s natural and cultural richness for the benefit of local communities living there. Besides providing opportunity for alternative livelihood source of rural communities, it also contributes to the tourism plan for decentralization and management of tourism at the destination level. A carrying capacity of tourism resources in these two areas is required to study and understand the level of human activity relating to tourism that Phobjikha Conservation Area and Haa Dzongkhag can accommodate in the context of the social-ecological environment and visitors experience. Eco Call has been fielded to conduct this study.
10. Destination Manas : A sustainable and inclusive experience
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in collaboration with WWF Bhutan and Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) are in the process of scaling up ‘community based ecotourism development’ in and around the Royal Manas National Park, in the southern part of Bhutan. This study is to develop an integrated tourism development plan for RMNP and surroundings, which is market-oriented, private sector driven, multi-stakeholder, sustainable, and with maximum local participation and social and economic benefits, and supported by the government through conducive policies and regulations.